SWS paper reading demonstrates power of the pen


SWS students read papers aloud in class (November 2012). Photo by Jackie Merrill.

“As I’ve suspected, you have been given the gift of the world.”

Senior Julian Cranberg takes a breath as he continues reading his paper, filling the room with the story of a king who is given the infinite. The eager audience awaits the next sentence. Throughout the evening, they have heard poems, stories, and even a fairytale, touching on subjects such as the clipping of fingernails, the spiritual meaning of life, love and a bad experience in the dentist’s office.

The SWS paper reading on Nov. 20 is one in a long line of events through which SWS contributes to charity. The committee in charge of SWS social justice, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, chooses a charity to partner with for each event, and donates the proceeds from the event to the chosen organization. Proceeds from the reading were both monetary and educational, with audience members asked to bring either books or an admission price, according to PYMWYMI members.

The charity affiliated with the paper reading was More Than Words, an organization that, according to their website, employs youth in foster care, the court system or those who have left school in retail and online book businesses.

The goal of the program is to teach youth employment and leadership skills, so that they may transition into the adult world and make progress with their education and employment.

According to Bobby Nasson, the site manager of the Waltham bookstore run by More Than Words, youth in the program must fulfill an educational requirement, and create a roadmap for the years ahead, whether they plan to pursue education or employment.

This year, one youth from the organization shared her work at the reading. Melody, a junior in the More Than Words program who did not wish to have her last name printed for privacy reasons, works at the organization’s Waltham bookstore. She shared three poems, whose subjects varied from love to hate and life.

“You step outside every morning, hoping you’ll see the real world.” Melody said, reading from her poem, “Imperfection.”

PYMWYMI asks a representative of the organization to attend each event, which Nasson said she believes fosters a unique relationship between Brookline students and the kids in the program. Senior Abby Raisz, a member of PYMWYMI, believes that representatives help demonstrate the effect of the donations.

“When you are putting your money where your mouth is, it’s really nice to see the people that you’re helping come and talk about how important it really is,” Raisz said. “It just validates everything that you have done, in a way.”

Last year, students donated or displayed artwork at the PYMWYMI Art Gala. The gala was affiliated with the Artists for Humanity organization, a program that brings art to schools where funding has been slashed. Two students in the program visited the Art Gala to personally thank BHS students, an experience that highlighted the importance of SWS’s contributions, according to Raisz.

“I think it really gives some concrete evidence as to how these organizations are a lot of the time trying to help serve underserved students and underserved families,” Raisz said. “It just gives some real perspective.”

Another committee member, senior Sidni Frederick, joined SWS her junior year and found and joined the PYMWYMI committee halfway through the first semester. Frederick, who has an interest in social justice, said she found in the committee a way to incorporate her interest in social justice with her new community.

“I only took an English class last year. I didn’t take history with Rich,” Frederick said.

“Being in that committee really gave me a chance to spend more time with people in SWS.”

On the night of the paper reading, SWS and More Than Words met to listen and share. A gentle murmur filled the room between each sharing.

Senior Sam Reed stood, preparing to read his short story. After a short introduction, the crowd united once more, ready to hear another contribution. Reed launched into his story, tackling issues of love and relationships. Members from both communities leaned in as Reed took a breath.

“Moose slammed the door,” Reed said, “In love and anger.” 

Juliana Kaplan can be contacted at [email protected]