Bennington College faculty mentors 25 students


NORTH BENNINGTON >> Bringing words to life with others who hold the same passion is what happened for the first time at Bennington College (BC) this week, at least for those not enrolled.

The Governor's Institute for Young Writers brought 25 high school students — out of 46 who applied — from all over the state to campus this week to craft their writing, critiquing and reading skills. Applicants were accepted into either the fiction, nonfiction and poetry genres, after submitting work, to participate in several workshops that included a classic writing workshop, lectures on the craft of writing, individual meetings with faculty and attending the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Writing Seminar programs at night.

"I get to be with people who share my similar interests," Jonah Mathison-Regan from Hyde Park said. "I don't get that at my school. It seems like I'm the only one interested in writing. It's good to be with a big group."

The MFA's motto, 'Read. Write. Be Read.,' is intended to connect students with written work while focusing on their emerging work, according to the Governor's Institute of Vermont (GIV) website. Workshop ratio of student to faculty was about eight to one, with three total college faculty running the classes.

"It's my first workshop. It's nice to see other people as passionate and interested to learn as I am," Grace Clement from Thetford said.

Students stayed in college dorms and spent most of their free time reading or writing, even during a mini-carnival, Megan Galbraith, director of the GIV Young Writers program said. BC senior Isaac Dwyer and sophomore Shelby Brisbane were the students residential advisors (RA).

"They know they're here for a reason," Dwyer said. "It's like you chose to come here, I know your parents didn't make you, so I have a responsibility to take you seriously."

"It's a good group. They want to have their work critiqued," Brisbane said. "They're talented. It's refreshing for me. There's lots of laughter. They're a great group of human beings."

At the end of the program, students will put together a collaborative zine (version of a magazine), write a haiku about their experience and present it.

"Some are even thinking about coming to the college," Galbraith said. "They got to see some amazing writers and read their work and they go to all the author readings at night."

The RA's said most of the students are used to English composition classes and haven't had opportunities to express themselves otherwise.

"They're writing about themselves and what they want. They don't have filters. They're honest and open," Brisbane said.

"They're willing to be vulnerable," Galbraith said.

Anyata Hamilton from Hartland brought her short story to further develop characters.

"I worked on a short story, or novella, whatever it's called, about a year ago. I'm working on characters and figuring out who they are," she said.

Heather Garufi from Waterbury and Maureen Hughes from Westminster have never published work before, but plan to after the skills they've from the program.

"I hope to. I think it's made me realize how much more goes into publishing," Garufi said. "I was wary about how the process works but now I'm up to do it."

The summer and winter enrichment programs through GIV bolsters high school students by providing hands-on learning in a college setting to inspire academic and creative appetite. Since its inception in 1983, GIV has impacted over 10,000 youth, partnered with 13 Vermont colleges and holds nine residential summer institutes and two residential winter weekends. Divisions include art, Asian cultures, current issues and youth activism, engineering, entrepreneurship, environmental science, technology and digital media, mathematical sciences, astronomy and writing.

"My writing was on my own time or at programs," Brisbane said. "It's cool to be around young writers and people who take the craft seriously."

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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