Day one of Ubuntu Academy - "I can be you because of who we are together" -resulted with much success. CWP-Fairfield, through generous contributions of many departments at Fairfield University and with transportation provided by Bridgeport Public Schools, allowed 15 young men and women to participate in CWP summer activities. Four of the individuals, three who were American-born and artists, were moved to the graphic novel lab to assist the young writers there (and to participate). The youth represent Congo, Rwanda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, El Salvador, and Equador.
When I was in Kentucky working on my first Masters degree, I had the opportunity to work at Jefferson County Memorial Forest where I served as a team builder. The activities we did with Kentucky youth served me well to kick-off the two-week Ubuntu program. We did a group juggle and then passed a hoolahoop around without letting go of hands. We also untangled a human knot, played 'wind in the willow,' and gradually moved to a group lift - all activities designed to build trust and communication.
In my research with immigrant and relocated youth in mainstream classrooms, the importance of community was paramount. The young men I worked with did not produce written outcomes without recognition of their unique communities and a respect for the stories they wanted to share. Working with French teacher, Kaitlyn Kelly, and graduate student, Jessica Ballizone, the first day was spent thinking about ways to prepare the writers to take chances and to have fun with new vocabulary, text, and opportunities to compose.
Yesterday, we invited the kids to work with the artists in the graphic novel lab and to begin thinking about the way dialogue, thought-shots, and verbal communication work in comics, novels, and our lives. I was impressed by several of the art skills that were revealed. At one point - watching 30 young people from around southern Connecticut (and their teachers, including Kathy Silver) all engaged with writing - I got a little emotional.
This is really happening in the nutmeg state...Ubuntu, alive and well.