[by Niko Rivas]

Last Wednesday, 12 high school students gathered in their neighborhood café for the Writers in the Schools student reading. Miss Zumstein Bakery & Coffee Shop was warm and inviting; watercolors of animals filled the walls, a periwinkle cake—emblazoned with doves and Prince’s “Love Symbol”—stirred joy in any pastry case passerby, and a brick fireplace added to the café’s cozy setting. The students of Meek ProTech high school were huddled around a large table earnestly awaiting the first speaker.

Author and WITS Program Specialist Joanna Rose facilitated the public reading. Rose began by explaining the various components that make up the WITS program, such as college mentoring, the slam poetry event Verselandia!, author visits to high schools, and publication of student work.

Rose thanked the 12 students for having the courage to read their work aloud in the public sphere, and encouraged them to submit their work to be published in the annual WITS anthology, which can be found at Powell’s and Broadway Books. Rose stressed the importance of discourse between peers and that it’s never too early to be initiated into an artistic community.

Students read poems with incisive observations about depression, flaws, love, and loneliness. In a poem titled “Broken Bones” Leo said, “If no one chooses to hear, will he make a sound?” The other students listened with rapt attention. In another poem, Will spoke of “heavy eyes that slowly flutter into the void.”

Laura Moulten, a current WITS writer for Meek ProTech, spoke about her experience with the students. “We began this residency together on February 1st, and I’ve come twice a week since then, so it’s not like we hiked the Pacific Crest trail from Mexico to Canada, or were stuck in an elevator for 76 hours together,” Moulten said. “But in some ways I think we know each other better through writing than any long hike or elevator or desert island might offer.”

Special thanks to the participating writers, Joanna Rose for facilitating the reading, teacher Amy Taramasso, WITS writer Laura Moulten and Principal Lorna Fast Buffalo Horse. We’d also like to thank Anja Spence and everyone from Miss Zumstein’s for being such wonderful hosts!

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WITS Reading for Meek ProTech HS