News - Advanced English Students Write Who They Are

IMG_1796Alone House, I visited you.
I know you miss the people
who took care of you.
I saw your old walls and windows
that started collapsing.
Alone house, I miss you very much.
I will rebuild you like before.

The poem above was written by Marco Raymundo, an advanced ESL student, participating in The Writer’s Center’s Write Who You Are program. It describes a house he used to visit with his grandfather back in his native Guatemala.

Throughout the spring semester, some 80 Carlos Rosario students like Marco participated in weekly creative writing workshops facilitated by local author Naomi Ayala.

Students used poetry and the personal essay to explore a variety of subjects, she explained. They wrote about childhood memories, cultural identity, love, work, and much more. One writing assignment, for example, asked them to remember the last day they spent in their home country before coming to the U.S.

“I’ve liked the program because we can express our feelings, things that maybe we can’t talk about but we can write,” said Marco.

Another participant, Lupe Orozco, says the classes helped her develop ideas she already had and grow her passion for writing. She actually aspires to publish a book some day and obtained a scholarship to participate in weekend writing classes at the Center, thanks to the skills she showed during the classes.

“The students have had an incredible impact on me. They are beautiful, brave, and absolutely genuine —every one of them.

It’s as if my life’s journey as a writer and teacher was meant to bring me here. I am an immigrant myself and so, in this way, it was especially significant for me. It was a sort of coming full-circle.”

– Naomi Ayala, workshop facilitator

All of the students in the program are English language learners but this did not deter them from experimenting with the language. According to Naomi, “the most valuable aspect of the program is that this learning experience is not just about creating literature and a crafted product, but about giving students the freedom to let loose and take great risks in a language in which the majority of them are not proficient.”

Write Who You Are culminated this semester with a potluck celebration where many of the participating students read their work in front of classmates and other writers. In the audience was E. Ethelbert Miller, a D.C. author who has published several award-winning poetry books, and Sunil Freeman, Assistant Director of the Writer’s Center and published poet.

One of the students reading her work during the event was Zahira Brahim. As she introduced her piece, she expressed that she always hated writing but can now appreciate the craft. “All of my feelings I put them on the paper. When you finish writing you feel a relief,” she said and went on to read an essay narrating her arrival to the U.S.

For Jorge Delgado, principal at the Sonia Gutierrez Campus, partnering with The Writer’s Center has created a positive impact on participants. “Students are gaining confidence and finding their voice while teachers are noticing a marked improvement in writing ability,” he said.

The results can be seen in a book published by The Writer’s Center compiling the best work written by the students.

For more information, visit The Writer’s Center website.