By Kate Jayroe, WITS PSU MFA Intern
On Thursday May 25, 2017, WITS was happy to host Gresham High School’s end of residency reading at Origin’s Coffee, Tea & Desserts. Ten students read moving pieces of poetry, bold works of short fiction, earnest personal essays, and short memoirs to an audience of forty people. The sheer range of emotion in the coffee shop was an astounding testament to the strength of the student work being read aloud, as readers and audience members alike laughed, expressed sadness, shock, and experienced joy in the entire process of sharing and celebrating the written and spoken word.
In addition to students, WITS writer Courtenay Hameister (who worked with teachers Tina Roberts and Crystel Weber) shared a personal essay, and WITS Apprentice Stacey Tran (who worked with WITS writer James Gendron and teachers Alethea Work and Crystal Hanson) shared poetry. Both Hameister and Tran spoke highly of their experience working with students and teachers at Gresham. Stacy also introduced Alethea Work, who read an ekphrastic poem she had written along with her students in a writing exercise co-led by Tran.
WITS Program Specialist Joanna Rose hosted the reading and introduced each student to the stage. In addition, Rose gave an overview of the WITS program, offered supportive encouragement to each reader, and closed the reading in celebration of Mary Rechner’s final WITS reading as the Director of Youth Programs at Literary Arts. As the reading ended, students were eager to chat with family, teachers, WITS writers, the Literary Arts staff in attendance, and of course with one another.
We would like to thank all of the writers, teachers, students, family, and friends for coming to the reading. Special thanks to Gresham teacher Tina Roberts for all her work as Gresham High School’s liaison for the Youth Programs of Literary Arts during the 2017-2018 school year.