Last Wednesday, students in AIM’s Upward Bound Summer Academy concluded five weeks of intensive STEAM instruction with a poetry reading on the historic Trading Room Floor of the AIM Exchange Building. 

Under the guidance of Thomas Jefferson High School English instructor Evan Freemyer, students read their work to a rapt audience of fellow teens and AIM employees. Over 50 people attended the reading.

Freemyer began the reading by revealing the motivation for studying and writing poems: he wanted students to pay closer attention to their lives and to find something amazing in what they may have overlooked.

“Is it possible that, if you take a close enough look at something, there is wonder everywhere?” he asked. He then read a poem he had written about a bottle opener, which, in its extreme attention to detail and imaginative imagery, recalled William Carlos Williams’s groundbreaking 1923 poem, “The rose is obsolete…

One by one, about 15 students summoned their courage to approach the microphone and read their work. They delivered memorable and insightful lines such as: “My heart is a maze, dark and scary. But I have a map.”

According to an article in the Daily Herald, poetry helps students read better, builds awareness of phonemes—a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a given language—and cultivates vocabulary, fluency, expression, and writing skills. All these abilities are vital to developing an aptitude for reading and communicating, which will help students succeed in an increasingly competitive, technology-driven world.  

Keeping the Momentum Going
Summer Academy continued the intensive education and enrichment that AIM’s Upward Bound students receive throughout the academic year. Each week was divided into themes: space, sports, public service, environment & animals, and entertainment & the arts. To supplement their classwork, students visited planetariums, volunteered, attended a College World Series game, went to the zoo, developed theatre skits, wrote poetry, and more.

In keeping with the final week’s arts-related theme, students also learned how to use technology to create their own music. Senior Director of Educational Programs Jonathan Holland and Digital Content Producer Tom McCauley led a music production workshop in Garageband, a digital audio workstation app that comes free with Apple devices.

Each student composed their own song using Apple loops, the royalty-free samples built into the Garageband software. The goal was to create a soundscape for a favorite inspirational quote. As each student added and arranged different musical loops to accompany their chosen quote, they became like artisans layering readymade bricks to build an innovative, original structure. 

Holland got the idea for the Garageband workshop from a training he attended. It made sense to incorporate the technology into the Summer Academy’s activities. “It’s right up our alley: it’s tech, it’s art,” he said. “It’s really cool.”

Multiple students agreed.

“The Garageband workshop was so much fun,” said Ruthi, of Papillion La Vista Senior High School. “I like that we got to use the tech side and also be super creative at the same time.”

Students also expressed their gratitude for Summer Academy overall. Anthony, of Papillion La Vista South High School, said he appreciated the variety of activities that AIM incorporated in the curriculum. “No matter who you are, they had something you could get interested in,” he said.

Chelsea, also of Papillion La Vista South, singled out her instructors for praise.

“The teachers got people to think and enjoy what they were learning,” she said.

Beyond being a fun, positive, and educational experience for students, Summer Academy may prove to be a pivotal moment in the trajectories of their lives. 

For example, in a written statement of thanks to AIM, a student named Andrea declared, “I will come out of this camp with a clearer idea of where I want to go and how to get there.”