Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Shelby County Reporter on May 19, 2014. Byline: Phoebe Donald Robinson / Community Columnist
Something very special happened at Columbiana Middle School (CMS). Fifty-eight seventh graders became published writers with their new poem anthology, Wildcat Dreams, edited by Tony Crunk.
For the last four years, the Shelby County Arts Council, in collaboration with the Alabama Writers’ Forum and the Shelby County School System, have brought the program Writing Our Stories (WOS) to CMS, the only public school in Alabama to have this pilot program.
Led by highly acclaimed poet, children’s author, and winner of the Yale [Younger] Poets Award, Crunk teaches students to believe in themselves that they can write. And they do.
“I want the students to be more open and comfortable with their writing skills,” said Crunk. “For me, it is fulfilling process to spark and inspire a student’s mind.”
SCAC won the 2013 Impact Award from the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education for this program, “given to an organization for outstanding commitment and dedication to children and the arts for innovative and creative programming, curriculum, teaching, and/or presenting.”
SCAC is committed to bringing the arts to Shelby County student and adults in as many ways as possible to enrich our community.
“Research confirms that participation in arts programs such as this significantly enhances students’ overall academic skills,” said Crunk. “More importantly, students gain practice, and confidence, in using creativity as an invaluable life-skill. The writing process, by which we imagine a goal and work toward it, while discovering and exploring new possibilities along the way, is a rich model for living a rewarding, fruitful life.”
The anthology Wildcat Dreams was presented at a student assembly attended by the student body, family, and friends. Teachers Richard Scott and Elizabeth Birdsong presented the books to the writers. Special guest speakers were Dr. Kerry Rush, CMS principal; Jeanie Thompson, executive director Alabama Writers’ Forum, Inc.; Bruce Andrews, SCAC executive director; and teaching writer Crunk.
Students who read their poems from the anthology Wildcat Dreams were Gaylon Beasley, Jeremiah Crenshaw, Emily Dickerson, Tanner Falkner, Hannah-Kate Littleton, Katelyn Lucas, O’Dell Newton, and Taylor Stallworth.