[by Molly Simas]
On May 17, family and friends of Franklin HS students crowded into SE Portland’s Bipartisan Café for a reading of student work, celebrating the conclusion of spring WITS residencies at Franklin. As they waited for the event to start, attendees enjoyed Bipartisan’s tasty pies and Italian sodas, seated at tables beneath kitschy, antique posters advertising war bonds.
At 7:00, Mary Rechner, Director of Youth Programs for Literary Arts, stepped up to the mic to get the evening started. Rechner thanked the audience for supporting the students, and the students themselves for reading, before explaining the purpose and effect of the WITS program in area public high schools.
Eight Franklin students shared their writing; one student shared two pieces, coming up to the microphone twice. At the mic, each student indicated which WITS writer they’d worked with. Writers who taught WITS residencies at Franklin this spring were Arthur Bradford, Elyse Fenton, and Jessica Mehta.
Along with the students who participated in their classes, Bradford, Fenton, and Mehta also shared a selection of their writing. It was evident how much the writers themselves had enjoyed their time with Franklin high schoolers; Fenton shared a thank-you to her classes comprised entirely from lines culled from student work, and during his time at the mic, Bradford declared that he thought he’d learned more from his students than they from him.
A special thank you to the Bipartisan Café for hosting our reading, and to participating Franklin teachers Shawnte Hines, Mercedes Munoz, and Dana Vigner, who hosted WITS writers in their classrooms this semester. Thank you also to librarian Sandra Childs, who serves as Franklin’s “WITS liaison” and in addition provides coordination for the Franklin community to participate in Students to the Schnitz, author visits, Everybody Reads, and Verselandia.