May 2014 -- NHS students Leslie Benavides (black), Mariyama Camara (blue), Alexis Scott (green) and Liliana Chavez (red) perform in "We Become So Numb," focusing on how hurtful words become desensitized.
May 2014 — NHS students Leslie Benavides (black), Mariyama Camara (blue), Alexis Scott (green) and Liliana Chavez (red) perform in “We Become So Numb,” focusing on how hurtful words become desensitized. (Kate Faiella/For The Bloc)

For ten weeks, nine university students worked with 37 Northwestern High School pupils to gain an understanding of cultural conflict.

Students who sign up for “Writing for Change,” or ENGL388C, spend the semester interning at Northwestern High School with a ninth grade English class. During their weekly 90-minute lab, the interns visit Northwestern and work with students to prepare projects about cultural conflict.

“We’re helping [the students] realize what [cultural conflict] means to them,” said sophomore English education major Olivia Wallick. “We’re helping them understand how it relates to them because that’s really the only way to get 14-year-olds to care about anything.”

With such a broad topic, students had freedom in designing their projects this year, Wallick said. They wrote plays and poetry, created music, and put together different videos and performances.

“The majority of what people are going to see came directly from the students,” Wallick said. “We didn’t need to prompt them much. They are talented and came up with interesting ideas and performances.”

When Salimatu Jalloh, a 2013 graduate from this university and current TA for the class, took the course, she said the high school students had to be urged to perform and present their projects.

However, the students in the program now are in the arts program at Northwestern.

They have to audition to get into the program, Jalloh said, so these students are more used to performing and are comfortable with the stage.

“We had to really push them,” Jalloh said. “These students are much more motivated to be on the stage.”

This is the third year this university has offered the program. In previous years, the topics have been things that have been “beaten to death in the classroom,” said Justin Lohr, the current professor for Writing for Change.

“Cultural conflict is really of the moment,” Lohr said. “[As a nation], we are finally becoming more cognizant of cultural conflict.”

Lohr said cultural conflict is not something that only happens between nations, but exists within nations, societies and even universities.

“Cultural conflict locally and nationally is kind of a blind spot,” Lohr said.

If you like music, poetry and art, this event is fantastic, according to Wallick.

“This is something they’ve worked hard on that I’m excited to see through to the end,” Wallick said. “I really hope other people will be proud of them.”

Jollah agreed support from the student body is important for Northwestern students because most of them look to the university as an emblem of what could be.

“It’s important to gain a sense of awareness of who is outside the bubble of the university campus,” Jollah said. “Come meet your neighbors.”

Seeing is Believing is on Wednesday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the Ulrich Recital Hall. Admission is free.

headshotMaya Pottiger is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at mayabee777@aim.com.

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