This is not the end – Emma Polen

Over 50 hours later, I have learned so much about intercultural communication and tried so many new things through my semester internship with Literacy Pittsburgh.

I connected my two internship responsibilities – English Language Learning classroom aide and marketing assistant – with a promotional video where ELL students spoke about why Literacy Pittsburgh was important to them. It was funny to interact with these students in front of the camera. I, a native English speaker, seem to forget my entire vocabulary when I step in front of a recording camera. Imagine doing this now as a non-native English speaker! This project was an exciting challenge, using my experience in both parts of my internship to create a meaningful end product 

While I’m a teaching aide, I’m always learning from the ELL students, too. Parasol, I learned, literally means para sol, or “for sun” in Spanish. Even though my first language is English, these students brought their own perspective and taught me more about English!

This is not the end of my time exploring diverse cultures with my career. I am pleased to announce that my marketing experience with Literacy Pittsburgh landed me a public relations internship this summer with Pipitone, a local integrated marketing agency. The connections I made at the nonprofit may even allow me to return as a full-time employee at Literacy Pittsburgh after I complete my undergraduate degree. I would not consider returning if I did not believe in the nonprofit’s mission of positively changing families’ lives through education, or if I did not make meaningful friendships with the people I met along the way.


Archival Offerings and Closing Remarks – Kaitlyn Nicholson Blog V.

As my last semester comes to an end, I have completed several research guides that I am very proud of, and I hope can be of use for many researchers in the future. I have gotten to expand on my own interests as an English major with the Black Modernist Poets guide and as a Film Studies minor with the African American film guide. It has been an exciting undertaking to make resources available for these lesser researched topics, and I hope they can generate new interest in scholarly discussion and research.

The African American Film guide, which was just published this past Thursday, connects researchers with several different important sources. One of these sources is the Black Film Archive website that is dedicated to archiving Black films from 1898 to 1989. I also created a comprehensive timeline of movements within African American Film which differ from the technologically driven shifts in movement for broader film studies.

I will be using the Black Modernist Poets guide and the African American film guide in the development of my final project which is focused on introducing new interns to the creation of library guides and the tools they will need to complete it. It has been an amazing, educational semester with Gumberg Library, and I am happy to say I am leaving full of new ideas and much improved research skills.

Leaving a Lasting Impact & Finding a Greater Purpose – Savannah Spratt, Blog #5

As my time at ACH Clear Pathways comes to a close, more than anything, I hope I have created a meaningful, and sustaining, impact. I hope, that by promoting small acts of kindness, striving to nurture empathy, working to engage with the children, and allowing a space for creativity, I have produced an effect greater than myself. My impact does not need to be grand in its qualities. It can be as simple as teaching a student how to reorder spelling words in alphabetical order, helping to assemble a birthday card for a student’s father, representing myself as a college-educated individual (a goal for which they can strive), or learning to treat others with kindness and respect, even in difficult situations. Leaving a lasting impact became my goal on the very first day. As soon as I realized there was an opportunity to help others, I made it my mission to show up and give my best to these students. 

Connecting my time at ACH to my plans currently and after graduation has been a journey of self-discovery. As of now, I am a double major in English and philosophy with a minor in political science. Through my work at ACH, I have discovered that learning and education require patience, empathy, and kindness. As a third-year student at Duquesne University, there are often times when I become overwhelmed with the workload, course material, and deadlines that I have to meet. In these moments of discouragement, I must provide myself with the same care that I would an ACH student. Kids often become frustrated with their schoolwork, and that does not change in adulthood––provided, I have a deeper understanding of the value of education and do not take it for granted. I have discovered education and learning (any topic) require a certain element of mindfulness: mindfulness of oneself, others, and the subject matter. Even if the work seems overwhelming, it is crucial to treat yourself, and others, with delicate care and understanding. 

After graduation, I plan to attend law school. Connecting my work at ACH to law has been an undertaking, one which has fostered profound reflection and self-understanding. Aside from the patience and empathy I must provide myself with when learning the new subject area of law. I find that an important, transferrable skill from ACH to law school is relationship building and hearing others’ voices. Learning how to create meaningful relationships with diverse communities drives your worldview to expand. More than this, hearing stories from these communities allows for their fundamental help and betterment. As a lawyer, I may have to represent clients in their best light, understanding their stories and persisting to obtain their justice. 

The ways in which ACH Clear Pathways has shaped me into a better advocate for myself and others are manifold. It was truly an unforgettable and invaluable experience, one which I will never forget!

Cinematic Focus and Project Notice – Kaitlyn Nicholson Blog IV.

This past week I had one of the most exciting days for any Gumberg Library intern – I finally published my Black Modernist Poets guide. After weeks of carefully collecting information on major figures, associated topics, poetic collections, and hunting down archived little magazines, I completed a major guide that I am proud of and is full of useful resources. It has been enlightening to step back from my personal interest in modernism and realign my focus as well a generative exercise, offering new and unexpected avenues of personal research. It has been an pleasure to highlight some lesser-known Black modernists and hopefully introduce people to their work.

I have also started work on a new African American Film guide that will detail the history of Black cinema and feature important films and figures. In addition to offering a timeline of movements within the history Black film, the guide will also offer research topics related to critical discussions of said history including African American cinema during the Civil Rights Era, the impact of Blaxploitation films, and the introduction of Black auteurs in the cinematic canon.

Finally, I began working on my final project: introducing future Gumberg Library interns to the inner workings of the Libguides system. This project will offer new interns a sort of handbook for utilizing the research guide system and serve as a reference for the completion of their guides. My goal for this project is to provide a starting place for the interns before they begin their internship and serve as an optional instruction manual for a variety of guides. I hope that this makes their introduction to the library and the creation of research guides as smooth as possible and will serve as a helpful tool in the creation of their guides.

Small Acts of Kindness – Savannah Spratt, Blog #4

How often are you compelled to act kindly without expecting anything in return? In my time at ACH Clear Pathways, I have worked to refine and express selflessness. Working with children creates the perfect opportunity to practice benevolence and place others’ needs before your own. In this blog, I will reflect on particular acts of kindness I have performed at ACH. I will preface these anecdotes by stating: I do not intend to flaunt these actions nor did I perform these deeds planning to share them. 

I conduct a small act of kindness by sharpening the homework room’s pencils. When I come into ACH at 3:00 pm, often, the children have yet to arrive. I make my way to the homework room, then to a mug holding many pencils––of all different shapes and sizes. My mother instilled in me the sentiment that it is most favorable to work with a sharpened pencil. So, as I sharpen the pencils, although it is a trivial act. I feel that, in a small way, I am helping out. Even though the act goes unnoticed, it is a moment where I consider others’ needs and take initiative. 

The students at ACH have become an integral part of my life. I have been graciously accepted into a community full of bright minds and smiling faces. Naturally, I often think of ways I can bring joy into these children’s lives. Sometimes, when I spot an amusing item in the store I bring it into ACH. Recently I brought in a colorful array of Ticonderoga #2 pencils, and, later, I found a Lego set entitled “LEGO Creator Easter Chickens.” My heart was filled with joy seeing the children instantly gravitate toward the vibrant pencils and piecing together the Lego set. Even in these small favors, favors that I did not outwardly attempt to receive any credit for. I felt they were important. I believe it is important to practice kindness and practice kindness often. 

Pop Culture & Pronunciation – Emma Polen Blog Post #2

As a classroom aide in an adult English Second Language class, I have encountered many communication barriers, but surprisingly enough, there are some cultural spaces that are easily communicated over language differences. First, all the ELL students knew Jackie Chan and the Terminator, and this made for a very entertaining lesson about “-ing” verbs full of karate kick-ing and spy-ing. Also, something I never really considered as an American is how much we use weather in our day-to-day greetings. A student greeted me one morning and then said, “Cold.” Without any other words, I knew from context that she was talking about the weather, and we continued a conversation about the temperature and the precipitation. Very little was needed to understand what she was trying to communicate in an American culture.

Challenges to this free form of communication have included mix-ups between words, most of which I, as a native English speaker, have never even considered. A student from Congo confused the words “addiction” and “tradition.” These words have very different meanings in the English language, and so correcting this error took some time because we had trouble understanding what he was talking about at first. As an English speaker, I have also never realized how similar the sound of the letter “C” is to the letter “Z.” Hearing the ELL students struggle with pronunciation and recognition of these two letters was definitely eye-opening. These difficulties have made it crucial to not blow past complicating language problems, but confront them and correct them in order to successfully communicate with one another.

Matured Innocence…– Blog #3, Victoria Kapfer

Throughout my time at Kentucky Avenue School, I have had the privilege to teach young children about different means of poetry and different ways to express emotions through words. Each week we looked at a different form of poetry and wrote about things that brought us joy and happiness. Even moments after a bad day or an event that made one of the children upset, they would take a silent moment to themselves, and after, they would draw. Scribbles upon scribbles, the children would draw…, and then they would write about what made them happy as if the moment of sadness was in the distant past.

I believe these children have taught me more than they will ever know in a short span of seven weeks. They have taught me to take that moment to breathe, to step away, and create. For the latest poetry project, I had my students create a tunnel poem where they first drew a picture and then they created four frames where they made layers for their image with a title and three lines written on top of each frame to make a haiku. One student decided to draw a picture of a whale, and as he did, he talked with me about mean people who hunt whales and people who put plastic in the ocean which harms all of the whales. Despite the conversation we were having, he wanted to illustrate the cleanest ocean for his whale, and he told me that his whale was going to fight back. So, he made his whale armor.

His haiku reads, “the whale: so graceful you swim / you glide across the water / you fight whale hunters.”

What impressed me most was how this student took a conversation we were having about the reality of the world, and he crafted a fantastical world where the whale fought back and could protect himself. I hesitate to disclose this experience as childlike innocence, but rather a child’s escapism from the reality of the world. This makes me wonder how, as I observe my high school students every day, how they might be able to escape from the reality of the world or if they have been presented the opportunity to do so. Do they want a chance to escape?

If so, how might I be able to provide an escape within my classroom?

I will continue to ponder the possible answers as I continue forward.

I thank KAS and my students for their continued support with my poetry club as my final poetry session approaches this coming week.

The Responsibility of Empathy – Savannah Spratt, Blog #3

The children of ACH Clear Pathways are the future. There is a great deal of responsibility in assisting them in their studies, nurturing their creativity, and providing them with a place to share their thoughts and ideas. This responsibility includes empathy. Empathy is essential to understanding a child’s needs and working through their complications. Viewing the world from a child’s point of view and reverting to one’s childhood may seem difficult. However, when dealing with children you must remember what it was like to be a child––the wonderment and imagination, along with the frustrations and feeling misunderstood.

Children deserve the respect of adults and their voices must be heard. Listening to others regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, etc. is integral in building a more just world. Throughout my blog posts, I have continually emphasized there is much to be learned from children. Initially, this concept may be challenging to accept. As adults, we assume we know more than children. One of a child’s greatest gifts is their lack of assumption. They have not fully formed their biases and approach the world in an unrestricted manner.

During my time at ACH, I hope I can adequately provide a safe space where all of the children feel accepted and appreciated. I feel that it is my responsibility when working with this community to lend an empathetic ear to each and every kid. I ask all that interact with children on a regular or even intermittent basis to take time to understand a child’s point of view. Momentarily, treat the child’s opinion with the same respect as an adult and indulge with questions and curiosity. In these situations, approach the conversation with an open and empathetic mind. There may be a moment of surprise or discovery within yourself: a glimmer of light, a reconnection to childhood, or even the answer to one of life’s greatest questions.

Little Magazines and Special Studies – Kaitlyn Nicholson Blog III.

Now that midterm has passed and my time left at Duquesne is dwindling, I felt it was a good time to do some reflecting on my life and my interests as my undergraduate studies came to a close. I thought about how I’ve come to love modernist poetry, costume-centric film analysis, and studying visual culture. With the help of Ted, some of these special interests are being turned into new library guides.

A few weeks ago, we completed a guide on Toni Morrison, an author I greatly admire, which gave me the opportunity to see more of her works and gain a better understanding of how to compose library guides on my own. Staring last week, I began to compile resources for the first guide I’ll be creating on my own focused on Black modernist poets. It was an interesting challenge to find names as many of the major figures came out of the Harlem Renaissance and the others are not as well known. During my research, I found several archives that have issues of little magazines published during the Harlem Renaissance and modernist era that will be fantastic additions to the guide. Little magazines can often be overlooked in the gathering of research materials so having access to digital copies of magazines like The Crisis, Opportunity, and Fire!! that highlight the poets featured on the guide has been very useful.

In the coming weeks I am looking forward to finishing the Black Modernist Poets guide and beginning work on my next guide, African American Film. It has been very exciting and rewarding to take the time to examine the figures and resources behind some of my favorite study topics. It has been a generative exercise, creating new avenues for academic essays and personal research on more nuanced topics within these subjects. I can’t believe my time with Gumberg Library is already half over.

Engagement With a Community – Savannah Spratt, Blog #2

As a student at Duquesne University, my education is directed towards the betterment of myself: my classes, my studies, my grades, etc. In this rather self-serving pursuit of education, I sometimes fail to recognize the broader communities which surround me. My time at ACH Clear Pathways allows me to step outside of the world of academia and into a place of service. Engaging with ACH’s community permits me to immerse myself in a refreshed environment and get away from the stress of school for a while. 

My interaction with the children helps me to see the world through a different lens. Most kids are blunt and honest, they have not made their way through a society that hushes outsider opinions and silences those who think and act in particular ways. Often adults shrug off a child’s actions and words expressing, “they’re just a kid.” There are so many lessons to learn from kids. I often engage in their play, stepping into the world each child has created for themselves. In everyday life, I encourage all to embrace their inner child, to experience the surrounding environment with as much curiosity and openness as a child. 

My only wish is to contribute to the community. To make an impact on at least one child, to have them remember a moment with me––or merely a lesson I taught them, a game I showed them, a magic trick, or a joke. Even in these small ways, if I can assist these children in a positive and memorable way I will be more than happy with my work at ACH. With these connections I have formed with the students, I cannot help but feel sad that my time will end when the semester comes to a close.

On Wednesday, February 15th, a beautiful day, the ACH kids were allowed to play outside in the common area. Here kids played with a football, formed games of tag, and were free to run around and play. It has been a while since I had a recess-esque experience. Something had changed, now I was the grownup and they were the kids. It was a wonderful experience to share the exciting moment with all of them––one of the nicest days of the year thus far.