Doubling Down on Staying Connected

Now in our ninth year of collaboration with Aiken New Tech High School in College Hill, WordPlay remains committed to being a steady presence in young peoples’ lives through the often daunting, shifting challenges of remote learning due to COVID-19. Mr. Aaron Parker, lead English as a Second Language teacher at Aiken, shared with us a reflection on his years of collaboration with WordPlay:

Aaron Parker with student Mohamed Camara, July 2020.

“At Aiken High School we have a secret to student success that we are not shy in sharing. That secret is the WordPlay advantage. As a teacher of international students from over 30 countries and speaking over 30 languages, we look to first welcome newcomers and diverse perspectives into our community.

“WordPlay rolls out the welcome mat not only to our school and how you can learn language without the haunting specter of grades, but also to our city by connecting our students to amazing places, people, and events. We look to celebrate and liberate the talents and treasures for the stories and experiences that are sometimes locked within our students as strangers in a strange land.

"WordPlay provides the fearless forum for our students to share their story as the panacea to a pandemic of ignorance and xenophobia that infects our society and directly impacts them.

“Our students develop self-efficacy through free speech that emboldens them to become the influencers and advocates for social justice reforms that catalyze their educational next steps so they become the leaders who give back when it is their time.

“WordPlay has given so much to our kids. Before the pandemic, in-class, after school, and summer writing and speaking workshops were always the difference-makers for our newcomers.

“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when many organizations found it too daunting to engage students, WordPlay doubled down with their programs that serve our kids in frequency, intensity, and compassion. Why WordPlay continues to step up for our young people when the challenges within our society become so challenging and so dangerous, are the same reasons our students demonstrate their willingness to take on those challenges and to confront those dangers with the simple expression of their humanity. The human story that WordPlay helps our students share is a mosaic that is comprised of fantastically common events perceived from uniquely uncommon perspectives. WordPlay gives volume to the voices that might otherwise choose or be made silent.”

Aiken ESL students visit the Elliston Poetry Room at the University of Cincinnati with WordPlay in November 2019.

We are humbled as we take in your words, Mr. Parker, and are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with you and your extraordinary students year after year. Our sincerest thanks for your dedication and partnership.

To contribute to our fall 2020 campaign, Access & Connection, making programs like those at Aiken and so much more possible through the pandemic, click here.

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