— Hannah Gloeckl
What started as an idea to produce a small service-learning project turned into a three-week literacy campaign, now called Poetry Matters.
When Dr. Downes and I first brainstormed on the subject of my Honors project during the 2015 Spring semester, we found a common interest in community service. Since my sophomore year, my participation in Clarion’s Omega-Mu chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity has instilled in me a sense of duty to the community and a longing to help others. Dr. Downes was teaching a service-learning course that explored the need for literacy programs in a community.
The program took on what now seems like a natural progression from that point. Deciding on the focus that we wanted for this community service project — the importance of literacy and an effective way to teach and reinforce literacy — brought us to the shorter medium of poetry, especially since both of us care about poetry. The events for Poetry Matters were then developed to try to reach as many different age groups in the Clarion community as possible.
We worked over the summer and into the semester to organize different literacy events for children, young adults, and adults. We realized we had a number of people and organizations who would support our endeavor (and they did!): 537 Clarion Community Learning Workshop, the Clarion Free Library, the students of Clarion’s Tobeco literary magazine, and the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega. Our event ideas ranged from a public display of poetry and art, to a sponsored open-mic night, to a Halloween Haiku party for children. These ideas ultimately resulted in six different age-appropriate events.
As the last week of Poetry Matters begins, and I prepare to present the results of my project to my peers and mentors, I realize the worth of a project like this to the community. Participants for each event have expressed appreciation for cultural events like Poetry Matters. In fact, even when only a few participants showed up to graffiti poetry on the sidewalk outside 537 Clarion, several passersby stopped to admire and read the poems. One of these community members even commented that the event was “time well spent.”
A number of lessons on effective communication, organization, advertising, and cultural appreciation have emerged from the events that have already occurred. These lessons will be useful as I finish my last semester at Clarion and move on to the workforce. Though this project has greatly contributed to my own learning, it has also sparked ideas from participants for additional learning projects in the community.
We have two remaining events for Poetry Matters: a children’s Halloween Haiku Party (open-house style) on Oct. 27th from 5 PM-7 PM at 537 Clarion and a “Poetry Out Loud” Open Mic Night on Oct. 29th from 6 PM- 8 PM at Michelle’s Café. Come join us!
Hannah Gloeckl, a senior English Major from Bethel Park, developed Poetry Matters as her honors project. She loves poetry and creative writing. As a Community Assistant, she also enjoys being an active member of the various communities to which she belongs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.