The Free Verse Project is a Montana-based organization we’ve just discovered. Clair Compton of Free Verse shares this update with us:
Free Verse is a nonprofit organization founded by four University of Montana students who believed in the transformative power of creative expression and believed in art as a catalyst for social justice. Today, Free Verse holds workshops in juvenile detention centers and transitional shelters across Montana, in places both rural and urban, with the aim of helping students discover and share their incredible voices.
Free Verse has been operating in Billings since February 2017. Our teachers hold lessons once a week, alternating between the Billings Juvenile Detention Center and the Ted Lechner Youth Services Center. Each lesson focuses on a theme and presents literature, current events, music, art, and film that explore that theme. One of the Billings students' favorite lessons centered on Junot Diaz's story, "Nilda." Our teachers worked with concepts of regret and prompted the students to write about a decision they'd like the chance to remake.
We partner with The Beat Within, a national journal of art and writing by incarcerated kids. Seeing their work in print validates and encourages our students. In each lesson, we bring in work from The Beat, which provides the opportunity for our students to hear the stories of people from entirely different backgrounds facing challenges that mirror their own.
The Free Verse Project resonates strongly with CMYK, as we believe that every story and every person matters. It seems apropos to discover the Free Verse Project while we are going through our “Stories” series. We are honored to support them in what they’re doing.
You can learn more at freeverseproject.org. If you’re interested in getting involved personally, they are looking to expand their Billings campus. Contact Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Free verse poem below by one of the students.)
I’ve seen you slipping, forever falling down
Never acting like yourself, mood swings going around
I’ve thought about stepping in and helping, but you don’t look open to it now
My voice is growing dimmer, soon you won’t even hear the sound
I hope you pull it together, working this program is the first step
I’d hate to see you forever stuck, drowning in the depth