Monday, July 19, 2010

McNair Scholars: "Go, Tell" __________

While we have not been as active on this Blog recently as we were last year and earlier this year, we have continued to actively tell the story of "Go, Tell Michelle's" inception, its contributors, it's importance as an historic document and the responses we've gotten to this work from people all over the world. On July 17th, we had the pleasure to speak to a group of over 400 undergraduate and graduate students in the Ronald McNair Scholar's Program. These young people were attending the 16th Annual McNair Scholars Conference, hosted by the University at Buffalo. The McNair Conference is a forum for McNair Scholars and other undergraduates to network, prepare for graduate school, and present research projects before faculty, staff & peers! Students came from all over the country: Mississippi, Colorado, Indiana, Oklahoma, Maryland, New York State, Connecticut, just to name a few.

We were the key note luncheon speakers on Saturday and the audience was attentive and inquisitive as they asked many thought provoking questions following the presentation. We also did something different with the students to engage them in the process of letter writing. We asked them to write a letter to a person in their lives to whom they would want to send a special message. We received responses from about 10% of the students who attended the conference. As we've done with the letters to Michelle, we read the letters to identify the themes of the messages that these young people wrote. This is what we found:

As was anticipated, they wrote letters to the significant people in their lives; e.g. parents, grand parents, siblings, peers, professors, mentors and other family members. In their letters/poems they recognized and thanked these individuals for their love, encouragement, support, sacrifices and even admonishments. Their messages communicated that they were more mature, more self-assured, self-confident and self-directed then they were just a few years ago. They were honest and intro-spective, examining their own limitations and strengths, their aspirations and capabilities. And they declared their determination to not waste the opportunities given to them. They acknowledged the lessons they'd learned from the joyful, painful, sorrowful, spiritual, meaningful as well as meaningless experiences that have shaped who they are today. In all, these young people confirmed in poetic verse and prose that letter writing can be a powerful and meaning mechanism for personal insight and self-expression.

We thank all who had an opportunity to write and for their willingness to share these letters/poems with us. We think that this activity is worth repeating in high schools as well as college programs and look forward to working with other young people as they "go, tell ________" people in their lives.

Send us a message to this blog or to my e-mail address: if you have used the model of "Go, Tell Michelle" in a similar way and what the outcomes were.