In May of 2017, 68 second graders from R.B. Dean Elementary School in Maxton received a special gift: a poetry book, Our Dreams, composed of their own original work. The book came into being from the service-learning projects of several UNC-Pembroke classes. The approximately 80 UNCP freshmen in instructors Deana Johnson and Amy Williams’ service-learning composition courses hosted a special reading party in February of 2017 for the second graders. Inspired by the community’s drive to move forward in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, they focused on the theme of “dreams” and the hope needed to envision and sustain them.
After the elementary students read from a series of books about Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, they rotated in small groups through six literacy stations each led by UNCP students, engaging in activities such as writing and revising a dream poem and illustrating that dream. A lunch of pizza slices, assorted snacks, and cold lemonade made possible by generous donations from Domino’s Pizza of Pembroke topped the event.
With the help of Sara Oswald’s PRE 3450 Computer-Assisted Editing and Publication Design class, each child’s poem from the reading party was typed, edited, and published and distributed to the young author’s at a special “dreamsicle” celebration. UNCP students also took home some valuable memories: freshman Randy Rodriguez wrote that “helping the kids write made me think about the dreams I had back when I was young, and it really made me think about how growing up and being exposed to new things really changes your dreams,” while Dillano Medina noted how the skills learned in composition mattered to these young students, noting “the kids were eager to learn how to better their sentences, make crafts, and express their feelings to college kids. Many asked questions they wanted answered, and we answered appropriately so that they have the knowledge to think on their own.”