High schoolers to explore the arts

by Kate Vander Wiede
Managing Editor
Wednesday Aug 17, 2011

Nigerian American Community Organization gauging interest for free, six-month class

On Saturday, August 20, the Nigerian American Community Organization invites residents to come out and learn more about their newest program: the Humanity Art Initiative Program (HAIP).

The organization, which aims to further civic engagement and voting and provide cultural enrichment, is now hoping to expand their purpose and audience with a free, six-month program geared toward 14- to 18-year olds. Running from October 2011 to March 2012 at the Blackstone Community Center, HAIP will provide a kind of classroom where high school students can learn literary arts and painting skills from at least three college-level students and local artists. NACO hopes this program will "foster a creative fire for the arts" in the community, and "provide an alternative means of education," a press release explained.

Caleb Nelson, who will be leading the literary arts session over the fall and spring, said the purpose of the open house was to gauge interest and create interest in the community.

"The idea with the open house is to kind of test the waters," Nelson said.

Classes will be taught on Friday evenings and on Saturday from midday to late afternoon. Nelson said that participants in the literary arts section will have a chance to write poetry, fiction, a memoir and complete a photo essay; they will also learn to receive and offer constructive criticism. Field trips, which will aim to teach participants about African American history, will punctuate the classes and help to bring perspective to the student's work. Visitors from the University of Massachusetts, where Nelson attends school and is the editor of the school's newspaper, will also help to teach participants extra skills.

At the end of the six months, Nelson said he hopes to create a literary magazine of the students' work.

"The idea with the open house is to kind of test the waters." -Caleb Nelson, volunteer teacher with HAIP

Furthermore, he hopes that his classes will provide the high schoolers a chance to explore and progress in their talents.

He added, "I'm hoping what students will get out of it is a sense for how they write and how to become better writers; Giving students the freedom to come up with what they want to write in an open environment where they can get feedback; giving students the opportunity to write without having a grade or anything, just writing for the sake of it."

NACO is currently working on writing grants for the program, but Nelson said the program would go on whether or not they received funds.

"The grant would definitely make it easier to get more equipment," he said, " but there are other ways we can raise money."

For Nelson, the reason he wanted to be involved with the program was to pass on the same kind of experiences he had taken advantage of as a high school student, and to show youth the wide breadth of options they had for their career.

"When I was a kid, I never really saw writing or photography or anything like that as a real career possibility, because all the people I knew were ... doing blue collar jobs and I had much more a knack for writing," Nelson said. "I felt like I had a lot of people who were encouraging me ... to join these kinds of programs where people a few years older than me [could teach me and critique me]."

Registration Process/Deadline: Registration will be held at an information open house on Saturday, August 20, 2011 from 11AM - 4PM at the Blackstone Community Center. The address is 50 West Brookline St. Online registration at will begin on Monday, August 22, 2011. The deadline to register is Friday, September 30, 2011. Feel free to call 617-635-5162 or 617-482-4826 ext 475 for any information or questions.

Qualification to register: Applicants must be 14yrs - 18yrs old; must have an interest in creative art; must be willing to work with others; must be dedicated & self-motivated.

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