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Graduate School Community Engagement

Building Bridges Between Rural and Urban Kids with Poetry

January 04, 2012

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Charles Sanderson and Bryan Chu, both middle school teachers, met in the 2009 Oregon Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute and continued with OWP during the next school year in the once-a-month followup class, Practicum in Teaching Writing.

Since then, they have become fast friends, talking for hours about teaching and learning. They built a great poetry unit which bridged St. Helens Middle School students and Lane Middle School students. 

For the 2010 National Writing Project Urban Sites Network Conference, hosted by OWP in Portland, Bryan and Charles presented a workshop entitled “Building Bridges: Spanning Ignorance with Empathy, Compassion, and Poetry.” Their application for a grant to bring rural and urban students together evolved from this work.

Sanderson recently published “When You Tell Them My Story, Please Mention That I Like Flaming Hot Cheetos”, an essay chronicling their work, in YES Magazine. 

When You Tell Them My Story, Please Mention That I Like Flaming Hot Cheetos

“Rich, stuck up, crackheads, hippies. That’s how Charles Sanderson’s students in rural Oregon regard city life. Racist, trailer trash, guns, swamps is how Bryan Chu’s students view the country landscape. How do you bridge that divide? Read what happens when middle students from rural and urban Oregon take the risk of writing someone else’s life story—a stranger from another school—in poetry form. This is Charles’ story.” Read the complete article here.

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