English and social work, empowerment with words

English and social work, empowerment with words

By Grace Parker

When I tell someone I am an English and social work double major, I often receive bewildered looks and then am politely asked to explain what connection I see between these two disciplines. Well, I must admit that as a good liberal arts student stuck in the uncertainty of the future, I am still figuring this one out myself. I know that I want to write and read as much as I can, but I also know that I want to help people suffering by the injustices of our society. Recently, I’ve begun to realize that writing itself may be my vehicle to accomplish both of these things.

First, writing to me is personal. It is my way of expressing and communicating all the layers of my ever-changing soul. So, I journal constantly. I write prayers, questions, lists, fragments of thoughts, and what-try-to-be poems. My journal is the breeding ground for all my future work and the warehouse for all my stored creativity. It also hears my most intimate musings and my most ridiculous moments as I come to it either out of utter boredom or a desperate need to communicate—whatever it is—clearly.

Writing is also a universal art. I am a writer. You are a writer. The twelve-year-old boy down the street is a writer because, quite obviously, a writer is someone who writes. Because of its fluidity and individuality, creative writing funnels many facets of culture into a new, separate creation. This is a perfect metaphor for who we are in this world as unique concoctions of passion, culture, and personality. Viewing writing as an art transformed me as the rules, conventions and scarring judgments of one high school English teacher fell away. Suddenly, I was free to do whatever I wanted on the page because it was my art.

In both journaling and creative writing, I have found healing. This summer, I co-taught a writing class at a day camp for at-risk teenagers currently living in detention centers. I gave each camper a composition notebook and led them through multiple accessible writing activities. What resulted was not necessarily award-winning pieces, but something far more valuable—the gift of expression. Throughout the week, several of them sought me out to show me the new poem or story they had written the night before and I was always astounded at the vulnerability of their work. I came to understand that all they longed for was their story to be heard and honored. Once they felt safe in the class, their words couldn’t stop flowing out of their broken hearts.

And this is where my two interests combine—empowering the silent by valuing their words.

So, as a lover of people and words, I encourage you to pick up a pen and write the stories that can only come from you. Let your voice be heard.

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Written by Grace Parker

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