Students of Boyne City and Boyne Falls public schools are getting the chance to stretch their poetry muscles through the “Be the Change” program initiated by the National Writing Project.
The program focuses on the study and research of poetry with emphasis on the performance of the spoken word and encourages students to utilize topics that matter most to them.
“It makes me feel like my voice can do something,” said Boyne Falls Public School student Alicia Whennen. “We can use our poems and creativity for something other than our own enjoyment.”
The program includes a trip to North Central Michigan College later this spring to attend a workshop hosted by nationally known poet Shawntae Brown and Jim Gillespie of the Blissfest Music Organization.
The hope is that, by allowing students to express their creativity, they will become more active in issues of importance.
“I don’t usually talk much. I’m usually very shy,” said local student Arianna Lightfoot.
But, for local English teacher Jeff Garver, the program brings opportunities beyond those offered to students.
“It’s being able to work with English teachers in other districts who are absolutely brilliant,” said Garver. “The collaboration is necessary for me to develop as a teacher.”
With an enrollment of 186 in 2019, Boyne Falls Public School supports only one high school English teacher, leaving Garver with less opportunity to collaborate than would be available in larger districts.
The grant pays for necessary materials such as visiting artists, visual art materials, publishing support, and support for a traveling “graffiti wall” which will be on display in downtown Petoskey.
Garver believes that this group, meeting during lunch together, is a needed support to an otherwise structured curriculum.
“They don’t otherwise have an opportunity to explore and express their opinions and autonomy,” said Garver.
The project, which lasts throughout the year locally, also includes Petoskey Middle and High Schools, Charlevoix Elementary School, Boyne City Middle School with Lakeview Academy, and North Central Michigan College.