Four Hiram College Honors students are going to be visiting high school classrooms – specifically, senior English classrooms at Crestwood High School and Streetsboro High School. The students will lead discussions dealing with diversity and racism, examining the issues through the literary lenses of two of 2014’s Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winners.
A collaborative effort between the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature and local high school teachers, the project challenges the students to expand their education beyond classroom walls, to discuss how this literature confronts racism and examines diversity, and to explore the issues with a broader audience.
- During this fall’s 3-Week session, biomedical humanities major John Enasko ’17 and integrated social studies major Seiji Bessho ’18 will visit Jami Cutlip’s students at Crestwood High School to examine Anthony Marra’s novel, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” which deals with radically differing lives intersecting in war-torn Chechnya. History Lecturer Don Fleming will also visit the class to discuss the history of Russia and Chechyna to provide a historical context.
- During the spring 12-Week session, English major Robin Peshick ’17 and history major Maya Watkins ’17 will visit Maria Judd’s class at Streetsboro High School examine Adrian Matejka’s poetry collection, “The Big Smoke,” which explores the life of the first African-American heavyweight world champion.
Each class will not only study the issues among themselves, but may also be able to go right to the source through live Skype discussions with their respective books’ authors.
Established by Edith Anisfield Wolf in 1935 to recognize writers whose work contributes to our understanding of the rich diversity of human cultures, the awards (administered through the Cleveland Foundation) represent the only national juried literature prizes in the field. Each year, the awards ceremony brings to the Cleveland area internationally renowned writers and authors to celebrate literature that could advance society’s thinking about race, culture, ethnicity and shared humanity. John S. Kenyon Professor of English Kirsten Parkinson attended the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf awards ceremony, and began brainstorming about how Hiram could get involved. The collaboration bringing Hiram students in touch with Anisfield-Wolf authors and into local high school classrooms evolved from there.
Parkinson said the program is a mini version of the Community Reads projects.
“I like the opportunity this presents to our students to really see that what they read goes beyond the classroom walls,” she said, adding that it illustrates the interdisciplinary foundation of a Hiram education.
It also represents a great way to build Hiram’s connections and recognition within the local community. With Hiram students actively interacting with and broadening the experiences of high school students, parents, teachers, prospective students and the community see first-hand the breadth of learning at Hiram. The immediate takeaway, Parkinson said, is that people say, “all these Hiram students have these cool connections and experiences.”
Beyond that immediate takeaway, though, grows a deeper understanding and appreciation of the scope of the Hiram educational experience.
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