The Power of Imagination

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During the summer, Colgate students applied their liberal arts know-how in a variety of real-world settings, and they kept our community posted on their progress. Mayzie Potton ’22, from Kenai, Alaska, describes her time leading storytelling workshops. 

This summer, I crafted and facilitated a storytelling workshop for primary school students in Alaska and southern Africa. I aimed to supply these extraordinary kids with the tools to tell their own stories — whether those stories were from personal experience or from the wildest reaches of their imagination. 

Since high school, I’ve been developing a project to place new books in the hands of middle school students from low-income families on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. As this project has grown, I’ve become increasingly involved not only with Alaskan schools, but also with St. Francis Primary School in Mbabane, eSwatini, Africa — a connection I made while volunteering and tutoring at eSwatini’s Sandra Lee Centre, founded by a distant relative about twenty years ago as an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. 

At home in Alaska at the beginning of the summer, I worked under the guidance of English teachers in my community to create a storytelling workshop, which I used to explore characterization and creativity with students at the local Boys and Girls Club in Nikiski, Alaska. I then spent the remainder of the season in fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms at St. Francis, eSwatini.

While teaching in both locations, I focused on helping students tell their own stories and make their voices heard, as well as on inspiring confidence in their perceptions of self-worth. I will never forget the looks of excitement and pride on the students’ faces as I read their masterpieces. 

This experience taught me a lot about the power of imagination and the importance of strong student-teacher relationships. Most importantly, I am more invested than ever in these kids and in the continuation of this project. I plan on returning to the classrooms in Alaska and eSwatini in the future. I hope to develop an in-depth understanding of how reading, storytelling, and encouraging imagination can impact a student’s confidence in themselves and in their education. 

Learn more about summer internship funding opportunities through Career Services at Colgate.