Friday, May 21, 2021

WHS graduate’s capstone project will continue to offer creative connections for future students

By Lorraine Glowczak

2021 Windham High graduate Sophie Phipps
is the founder of the school's Creative Writing
Club, open to all students. The club has offered
an opportunity for social connections for
students during the pandemic.

Writing can be a very solitary adventure, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many writers, whether professional or otherwise, become a part of a writing group to work on individual projects, meet goals, or join to be with others who share a passion for the creatively written word.

In the fall of 2019 during her junior year, Windham High School (WHS) student, Sophie Phipps wanted to join a creative writing club for the very reasons listed above. “I wanted to hold myself accountable to write more, as writing is something I love to do but never manage to make time for,” Phipps said. Unfortunately, she soon discovered there was no such group available at the school.

In an article published in the Jan. 16, 2020 edition of The Windham Eagle newspaper, written by Ryan Lowell, Phipps stated that she discovered her love for creative writing in the seventh grade when she was seeking an emotional outlet after the death of her grandfather.

“It was the first major grief I’d felt in my life. I was overwhelmed by everything I felt and [I was] determined to figure out how to deal with my grief,” Phipps said during that interview. She wrote a short descriptive story about her “Papa” in English class and was moved to tears by putting her fond memories into words. “When my piece was finished, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt completely soothed and content and fell fast asleep that night. It was this experience that taught me the catharsis of creative writing. Personally, writing has stuck out to me as a passion ever since.”

Because a creative writing club was not available, Phipps began researching ways to create a successful and fun organization that students could enjoy, bearing in mind collaboration and inclusivity. With the assistance of Ryan Lowell, former WHS Journalism/English Teacher, she officially began the WHS Creative Writing Club later that fall. It was an immediate success, with approximately 12 students meeting on a weekly basis.

It was through this success that Phipps began to consider the Creative Writing Club as a possible Capstone Project, a required academic assignment to be completed prior to graduation. A capstone project’s mission is described as: “to identify an existing problem in a real-world setting and find a way to develop a solution to address the problem directly.” The student is often encouraged to participate in the project they are enthusiastic about and has the potential of helping the community in some way.

“I met with Lanet Anthony [Director of Community Connections] who guides us with our projects, and she gave me the greenlight, saying that the Creative Writing Club met all the requirements of a Capstone Project,” Phipps said. “I thought, ‘Sweet! Two birds with one stone!’”

Since its inception, the Creative Writing Club has not only been a success with highly involved active membership for over a year that will continue after Phipps graduates next month - but has achieved a great deal of success in multiple ways, despite the pandemic.

“I have been beyond impressed with how these students, led by Sophie, have devoted their free time to artistic cultivation,” said WHS English Teacher and Creative Writing Club Advisor, Chelsea Scott. “This is time they could literally use for anything else, yet they chose to spend it on Google Meets, writing and responding to each other's developing work. Students would come in each week with fully formed stories or poetry and would also write on the spot in response to prompts. They gave mature, compassionate, and whip-smart feedback that fueled each other's progress and ultimately, I think, drew them back each week.”

Scott also said that self-expression, even if no one else sees what the writer creates, can be so healing. “Sustaining a reliable container for students to explore through writing seemed like a necessary support, especially in these times,” she said. “These kids also have amazing senses of humor. We have fun, whether in-person or on screens!”

Phipps is very appreciative of Scott’s support of the Creative Writing Club, who became the new advisor after Lowell relocated to Western Maine and now teaches at a high school there.

“Ms. Scott has been instrumental in making the Creative Writing Club a success during the pandemic. She kept our spirits up and helped to make this experience fun, inclusive and collaborative. I really appreciate all her effort.”

Sophie Phipps will graduate next month on Sunday, June 13 ranked third of her class. She will attend Brown University this fall, with a concentration in Biology. Her goal is to become a research scientist and a tenured professor, for both of which the acquired skill of writing and publishing is a must. Phipps currently writes poetry and realistic flash fiction. <

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