When I learned that I needed to take an upper-level interdisciplinary Honors seminar in order to graduate as an Honors scholar, I found myself scared. Would the workload be too much? Despite my reluctance, I steeled my nerves and signed up for the course with a Pikachu smiling on the information sheet, Japanese Culture, taught by Professor Brian Chen. I couldn’t be happier that I selected this Honors seminar.
Topics: civic engagement
My “Writing That Matters” group collaborated with the Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative, or HELI, an organization that works with family, community members, the school system, and activists to improve Holyoke’s early literacy for children from birth to third grade. HELI’s work is important because the city of Holyoke has noticeably low literacy rates. In 2013, 13% of Holyoke’s third grade students scored proficient or advanced on the MCAS, compared to a 57% state average.
For our “Writing that Matters” civic engagement project, my group contributed to Westfield State’s first ever Fresh Check Day, an event held on college campuses around the country to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, to encourage students to speak up about mental health concerns, and to bring to light the fact that there are 1,100 college student suicides each year. Despite the somber reason for Fresh Check Day, the event provides a lively and fun environment in which students connect with each other, become allies for the mental health community, and work to prevent suicide. Participants visit activity booths, interact and connect with fellow students, and compete for cool prizes.
Civic engagement classes involve students in community outreach and service learning as a primary part of the curriculum. In Professor Catherine Savini’s Honors civic engagement first-year composition course “Writing That Matters,” we chose different community-based writing projects.