Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spoken Interludes Next

I'm in bed getting better from having a tummy bug :( watching the wind move the pine trees in the back yard, and waiting for soup that Dan is bringing home, the hero. Wednesday was a wonderful, albeit nonstop day. It started with the graduation reading of the students of Spoken Interludes Next, our outreach writing program that is at Mt Pleasant Blythedale UFSD, at Blythedale Children's Hospital, the only New York State public school located within a hospital. What an amazing hour that was. I am including a letter that I received from Ellen Bergman, the superintendent of the school about the morning.

Dear DeLauné,
Your description of the Spoken Interludes Next writing project at the Special Act Coalition superintendent's meeting last year sparked my interest. The opportunity to have published authors teaching my students was very exciting. However, I had no inkling of the profound impact the program would have on the very special seventh and eighth grade students at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School.

Today we celebrated the achievements of the Spoken Interludes’ writing students and their teachers, Marek Fuchs and Susan Ades Stone. I’m sure you recognized the pride expressed in the voices and on the faces of the students. As patients at Blythedale Children’s Hospital, these adolescents have little control over their physical conditions. They have few opportunities to celebrate their individual creativity, and bask in the admiration of their peers.
• S. who has Cerebral Palsy is reluctant to speak in public. Yet with great pride he read his narrative describing his feelings about attending a recent concert featuring his favorite musicians.
• L. who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta has strong feeling of nostalgia for her native country, the Dominican Republic. Spoken interludes allowed her to give voice to those feelings and to share them with her peers.
• D. has Hemophilia and resisted coming to school, preferring to stay in his hospital bed playing video games. Reluctantly, he attended one Spoken Interludes class and then another and now school attendance is no longer an issue.
• J. has Guillan Barre and fatigues easily. He was angry about his illness and the resulting lengthy hospital stay. Spoken Interludes gave him the opportunity to imagine a world of strength and adventure, and regain some hope for his own future.

Thank you for giving all of the students at MPB experiences they will treasure long after their bodies heal. Your teachers have nourished their souls and taught them life affirming skills.
I hope that you will consider the students at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale UFSD as you plan for future Spoken Interludes programs.
Ellen Bergman
Superintendent of Schools

It was truly amazing to see these children read their stories. I was hoping to take the program to them twice a year, but after being with them, I want them to have it at least three times a year to reach as many as those children as we can. I told Ellen that we'd be there this summer, and then thought, "With what money?!" But where there is a will, there is a way; I have never doubted that. And yesterday, I got a surprise donation for 500. and that will cover a third of the cost of the program there, so I feel sure we will be able to be there after all. What courage those children have. One more time, I felt like I was getting the gift by being with them. And the writers who taught the program, Marek and Susan, were amazing. I feel blessed that they are part of this program.
Then I drove to Norwalk Community College to be part of a panel on Youth Activism. One of the other panelists, David Burstein, was so inspiring. He started a nonprofit last year called 18 in 08 and registered over 25,000 voters between the ages of 18 and 25 before the elections. Don't miss his website. He's only 22 and is doing great things. I could have listened to him for hours.
Then I went to Abbott House back here in Westchester to sit in on a Spoken Interludes Next class that we are doing there, and to meet with Colleen Michelle Jones from the Rivertowns Enterprise, who is doing an article about the program. Colleen is a doll, and a lovely writer, and her support of the program means so much to me. The class I sat in on was on Setting - the program is an 8 week program that takes the students through the process of writing a short story and each class focuses on a different element of the story. I listened while Marek - who is also teaching that group - did a wonderful job of working with the boys, but had to bite my tongue not to jump in. I wanted to work with them so badly. I miss teaching in the program so much, and am thrilled that is starting without me, but look forward to being able to when both of my sons are in school, but at least I can be connected this way. I did have a chance to work with them a bit, and felt such a connection with them. One of the boys is a natural writer, his work was so gorgeous and engrossing, and another wants to be a therapist. I gave them all hugs at the end, and can't wait to hear them read at their graduation. I should have pictures soon, and will put them up here. I love working with those kids, and am so glad I am able to vicariously until I really can.