March 7, 2018
National English Honors Society’s first annual Coffee House took place on Tuesday, January 30, providing the community with the chance to espress-o everything on their minds: whether it was in the form of music or literature.
“As the National English Honors Society, we wanted to highlight the art form of English. What better way to do that than to have students share poetry, read aloud, and gather for an evening of the arts?” said Mr. Vennard, co-sponsor of the club.
The National English Honors Society (NEHS) was introduced to Atholton by Ms. Lucente four years ago, as a selective club for English scholars in the school. Since its establishment, the organization has sought to spread the love for English around the community.
The idea of Coffee House was based off of the Poetry Night that Atholton’s NEHS hosted last year, which inspired members to organize a similar but more welcoming and inclusive event.
Coffee House was especially important as it was combined with the induction of new NEHS members. The club also celebrated the culmination of a sucessful book drive for Harlem Park Elementary School in Baltimore. Over the course of two weeks, the Atholton community collectively raised over 2,500 books to donate to the school, where 99% of the students come from low income families and only 5% of the kids meet proficiency standards in English.
“Thanks to all the lovely families, students, and teachers at Atholton, we were so glad we were able to display these wonderful books at Coffee House,” said Aliza Saunders, the vice president of the NEHS.
While NEHS has a four hour service obligation for its members, the goal of this book drive stemmed from their desire to support the community around them. “[Harlem Park] is a place that is a lot less fortunate than we are, and we wanted to use our resources to help them,” NEHS President Claire Silberman said. “Our motto of NEHS is ‘Gelast sceal mid are,’ and in old English that means duty goes with honor. We wanted to make sure that people were actually feeling like they were making a difference in their community, especially with the books going to such a worthy cause.”
Given that this was NEHS’s first time organizing Coffee House, Silberman mentioned one of the biggest challenges they encountered: advertising. “It’s difficult to get the announcements out, efficiently and effectively, and get a cross section of the students. We hope in the future to start marketing and advertising a few weeks beforehand to try to get as many students possible from different social groups and different classes to be able to come and enjoy Coffee House.”
Coffee House, unlike most school-wide events, was mainly managed by the members of the NEHS themselves. The legwork included coordinating performances, contacting performers, preparing the food, decorating the Media Center, and bringing in books. “Of course, we couldn’t have done it without our advisors, Mr. Vennard and Ms. Timmel,” Silberman said.
At Coffee House, 23 performers sang, read, and recited, each varying in their own sense. Moments of laughter and solemnity filled the Media Center that evening.
Senior Sophie Lasher performed her original song “Stained,” sharing her personal story. “My goal as a songwriter is to take my experiences and turn them into something everyone can relate to. This one was also one of those songs that came out saying exactly what I was feeling in the moment I wrote it, which is incredibly satisfying,” Lasher reflected.
Nico Greenawalt, another senior, recited three of his poems that dealt with his journey as a transgender individual. “Writing this helped me sort out my feelings,” he said. “I think that if a person is struggling, it can help to turn that pain into art.” Greenawalt furthered by saying that he wanted his poems to assist the empowerment of students like him in Atholton: “A lot of people don’t understand what being transgender is, or how difficult it is to transition. It isn’t just about the pain. I want the Atholton community to know that transgender people exist. I want my words to reach LGBT youth at Atholton, and I hope that our school’s community can become more open and accepting to all students.”
Without question, the Coffee House was an extraordinary chance for the Atholton community to show a latte of creativity.