For members of Exclusive Ink, Room 238 is like a gym for all of us where we put in the extra hours of practice and hone our academic skills. In this way, we’re sort of team of writers, with the mentors serving as coaches.

As with any new team, even some returning members have some growing pains and an adjustment period, some come in as renewed superstars, some first-year players blow you away with their raw talent that has yet to be controlled and channeled for effective use. Some coaches click with certain players better than others. When you come together as a team and stay motivated towards the same goal, the results can be pretty astounding.

One of the best examples of growth in one of our writers I’ve seen is in S––. When I first worked with S––, it was hard to get him to say much more than two or three words at a time, much less write an entire poem on a page. And it would be the absolute end of the world to ask him to get up in front of everyone and read what he wrote. I felt bad that even his friends were giving him flak.

I didn’t work with S–– the next week, but Allyson did. She said that she noticed some marked improvement from the week before and even got him to write a paragraph, which made us mentors happy. We all knew that if he could just put something on the page, it would hopefully free up his mind a little.

However, the next session I had with him, he was timid again, almost to the point of being withdrawn. He didn’t write a word.

The following week, Doug and I ran a group exercise where we wrote a poem one word at a time. S–– was in our group. In this exercise, he was not only forced to write something, but he could contribute to the whole group project in a small, but noticeable way. The exercise was a resounding success. After struggling for the first few minutes, soon he was giving us words with more and more confidence. By the end, it was hard to get him to stop blurting out words, even when it was someone else’s turn. He was so taken with the exercise that he even offered to read the finished product. We were finally to move S–– past his concerns about “not being right” or “sounding dumb” and put some words down without worry.

The momentum continued. Not only did S–– volunteer to help lead the next week’s exercise within his group, he read again. We’ve seen him stand up for himself more often and be more assertive. Instead of putting his head down with his hood up when we ask for someone to help us out, he will contribute. And, perhaps what’s most astounding, he continues to write.

Contributed by Luke Wortley