Feature Blog by Program Director, Anna Ojascastro Guzon
Yesterday afternoon, the YourWords tutors and the Marygrove students finally had the opportunity to meet at our first tutoring session. We started with homework help, then dove into the writing assignment. We examined the universal theme of loss in Jay-Z’s “Glory,” Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” Bono’s “One,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” The kids outdid themselves in boldly taking on the challenge of composing a villanelle, a 19-line poem, in which the first and third lines are repeated in a specific pattern throughout.
From my perspective, I saw young men who were actually excited to write and proud to share their work. The tutors showed courage as well in taking on roles to which they are unaccustomed, and in unfamiliar surroundings. The result was the students having the rare luxury of being the sole focus of another’s attention, for a little more than an hour.
While one of our goals was to provide education for the under-resourced, another goal was realized yesterday. Our tutors met these young men with cultures and backgrounds that are vastly different from their own. They weren’t quite certain what to expect. But as each tutor spoke to her student, the initial anxiety waned, developing into smiles and applause for their work. They read “One” and “One Art” together in pairs after listening to impassioned recordings of “Glory” and “Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” The mourning, resignation, anger, and redemption that accompanies loss and is reflected in these works is something to which every person can relate, regardless of whether they are from North or West County. After just one session of tutoring, we laid down one small plank of a bridge, spanning St. Louis’ divides.