Seven years ago, when I was Senior Editor for Epilepsy.com, I helped conceive a “Tell Your Story” campaign for those living with epilepsy. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer to me, that writing could help those suffering heal. I knew words had the power to transform lives, to give the quiet warriors of life a canvas on which to paint. And in typical Jenna fashion, I threw myself into this project the way I throw myself into everything I believe in—with my whole self. Within in days of launching the campaign, I received hundreds of emails from people from all over the world from places as foreign to me as South Africa and as familiar as San Francisco. I knew the campaign would be a success, but had no idea just how much!
Over the course of two years, I read thousands of stories. I am sad to say I do not remember all of them. I do remember, however, the story of Abebech and her infant son Alem. Abebech was a 21-year-old mother from Ethiopia whose 6-month-old son, Alem, was having 15 seizures a day. She had no access to consistent healthcare for Alem and no one she could talk to about the fear she faced everyday as she watched both Alem’s body convulse and the ticking clock, which showed no mercy as each seizure ravaged Alem’s brain. I cried at my desk that day as I read her words and through my tears I felt admiration for this young mother whose love for her child gave her the courage to write— to share her story with the world. I found a new hero that day in Abebech. During that time, I also found a name for what came naturally to me “Transformative Language Arts” and the founder of it all Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. I was inspired by the idea that words could heal entire communities, that there were actual people dedicated to doing such systemic work. I wanted to be part of this movement, but had yet to realize what that would mean.
Fast forward five years and I have found my foothold in the world of Transformative Language Arts by bringing the power of words to children all over Boulder Valley. Through journaling, I am helping children access their voice as writers, artists and individuals. Bringing children to the page in a way that is comfortable, fun and inspiring to them is the core principle behind the program I teach. And the best part, for me, is the knowledge that I am helping each child learn how to give themself the gift of writing, which they will be able to use throughout their lives. As a side note, I have only just begun this program, and am slowly building momentum with the Boulder Valley School District as well as the YMCA. Wish me luck! I am sure to have a colorful and exciting journey ahead.
It is also quite a gift to be part of the TLA Network and to be surrounded by such an incredible group of people working to be the change they seek on a daily basis. Thank you everyone!