Five Sundays a Semester
Emmitt Williams
ewill756@uwsp.edu
The Lincoln Hills Poetry Project is looking to expand this year. For those who may not know, the LHPP is a project both the university and the Lincoln Hills juvenile detention facility have shared for over fifteen years. Since 1996, students from the university, under faculty supervision, have willingly volunteered their time to invest in this interest group.
 
LHPP has not been overwhelmingly popular, but each year few dedicated students help keep the project alive. Even under anxiety of not knowing what will happen, these students extend a helping hand to the kids in a form of writing. They set aside their fears and work with students who have made some mistakes down the road and have been abandoned by society.
 
The student volunteers teach the students at detention facility about different styles of poetry and show them how to organize their thoughts on paper. This is typically achieved through small writing activities both working with one another and independent writing.
 
After speaking with Stacey Gajewski, a junior majoring in communication, about her experience working with the students last year, it was evident that she was one of the volunteers who did not know what would happen, but still remained open-minded.
 
"I wasn’t too sure what to expect," Gajewski said.
 
The truth is most students do not know what to expect when working with kids who are considered to be "more at risk". However, it does enable you to connect their decision making with the world they live in and allows you to understand them a little better.
"It opens your eyes to others situations," Gajewski said.
 
In the process it’s hard not to gain an emotional connection with the kids or find memorable moments that will last a lifetime.
 
"My favorite part is when the kids would rap or sing their poems," Gajewski said.
 
Because of this connection, many volunteers find it hard to say goodbye.
 
"The most challenging part of the experience was knowing that I would not get to interact with them again and that the window of time to make an impact was so short and limited," said Seiquest Williams, last year’s president of LHPP.
 
Williams, an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, mentioned her experience with working with the boys and the joy it brought to her heart.
 
"The most rewarding part of the experience was hearing that at least one of the young men not only enjoyed the program but felt that it helped him," Williams said.
 
LHPP is still going strong and will be executing plans of expansion. Until last year, the project only worked with the males at the Lincoln Hills juvenile detention facility. This year the females will be apart of the project as well.
 
Elizabeth Millman, an active member last year and the current president of LHPP, is excited about the new plans and elaborates on what she and the club hopes to achieve this year.
 
"This year we will be working with not only the young men, but the young women at Lincoln Hills. This will be a whole new experience for all of us. I hope to gain more members and to spread the word about the importance of this club to these students," Millman said.
 
The LHPP is more than just a campus club, but also a support group for the young men and women at Lincoln Hills. These students are placed in this facility to help them access and revaluate their life. It contributes to this effort through poetry and volunteering while building a relationship with the students. Most of these kids just need an outlet and the LHPP provides them with a healthy coping mechanism.
 
"The poetry project gives these students something to look forward to and to work toward. They have to maintain a respectable attitude to be able to join in on our sessions. Five Sundays a semester makes more of a difference than you can imagine," Millman said.