Destination: I Got This. (An IYWP Update by Paige Pennigar)

We’re wrapping up our work at the Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center in the coming week. Emily (my “co-volunteer”) and I have had the privilege to work closely with three third-grade students who have surprised, tested, and enlightened us over the course of the past four months. Week-by-week, I have built relationships with these young people and discovered a fresh thirst to further take on the challenge of teaching children to embrace creativity through the power of language.

I wish I could share my entire experience with you: the ups, the downs, the lessons, the conversations, and the individuality of each student that captivated me on a weekly basis. I could write a novel about the innovative minds Emily and I worked with at Pheasant Ridge. Our last week of working with the third-graders finished with the perfect cap. I began our hour-long time together by explaining to the kids our plans for publishing their work. We talked about the work each student had done during the semester and what he or she liked the best. I had been saving their work, so I pulled out my folder and began distributing the different writing activities and drawings each one had completed, all while talking to them about Thanksgiving break. I had not even distributed pencils or paper at that point. Then, I looked down to my left. There was a student, who we’ll call Sarah, writing like there was fire chasing the pencil she had snuck from my backpack while I was talking. She had almost a full paragraph written in about three minutes, without any sort of instruction. Sarah had spent most of the semester hiding behind the shield she kept so firmly planted, and I was weathered by her seeming lack of interest and shy demeanor. Wednesday she kicked her shield down, with creativity flowing in every direction. When I asked if she needed any help, she very confidently replied with, “I got this.” There was no stopping her. She wrote the entire time we met on Wednesday, generating over a page and a half of what she described as her “true story,” describing her relationship with her best friend Princess, a dog she found in a pet store window. Details like Sarah’s love of playing Frisbee with Princess, her battle to wash the bath-hating dog, and Princess’s distaste for doggy tutus quickly came to life on the page. It was the icing on the cake, and I could not have hoped for a better wrap-up to our time together.

Pheasant Ridge has been the highlight of my week for months now and I don’t foresee an end to that in the near future, even with the conclusion of my service course approaching. The kids want to put on a play in the future, and it is my intention to help write and produce it with them. There is something hiding inside all of us, something begging to be heard, whether through writing, drawing, or speaking. We just have to find that comfortable voice.

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