August 11, 2022

Student writes essay on community-engaged poetry project


Led by Rural Humanities 2020 (ILR, ’20) Spring Seminar Participant Shaloni Pinto (ILR, ’20), the Poetic Justice Project builds on Cornell’s long-standing collaboration with George Junior Republic High School in Freeville , NY.

Pinto’s experiences are detailed in the linked online booklet, a digitized version of his essay titled “How to Begin a Poem?” : The story of a community of poetry ”. In the essay, Pinto writes about his summer guiding students at George Junior Republic High School through the interpretation of the very poems that became influential during the program. The essay ends with a poem written by Pinto herself, reflecting the growth themes of her participation.

Poetic Justice functions both as an interactive online teaching tool and as a club for students at George Junior Republic High School interested in reading and writing poetry. The high school, originally founded as an “agrarian republic,” exists as a separate entity from the William George Agency for Children’s Services, but some students are part of this residential program. The William George Residential Agency seeks to create a safe environment for young people with diverse personal situations, people with disabilities or those who have suffered trauma or abuse.

To embrace the diverse perspectives of high school students, Pinto and other participating Cornell students alongside their community partners – high school staff members – sought to create an environment where each student felt motivated to share stories through the interpretation and creation of poetry.

Community partner Karen McLaughlin attributes the success of the program to the fact that “the students could sit down with someone and that person would listen to them. Poetic Justice had groups that were smaller than their classroom environment, which made it easier to build individual bonds between them. “

Speaking about his experience working alongside high school students, Pinto highlights the collaborative nature of the program:

“I have never ‘taught’ a poem and I have taken care to avoid a definitive role of interpreter of its intentions. Our knowledge of our poems grew out of discussion. our writing exercises focused on the question, “How do we start a poem?” “”

After the COVID-19 pandemic struck and poetic justice activities were forced to move online, Shaloni Pinto created the online resource Poetry After School. In the future, students and program participants will be able to use the website to publish their original poetry.

Find out more in “How do we start a poem?” : The story of a community of poetry ”integrated below:


Funded by Humanities New York, the Community Partnership Grants pair Cornell students with regional organizations, such as libraries, community centers, and museums, to support campus-community collaborative projects in public humanities.

Shaloni Pinto is a graduate of Cornell University, with a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations and minors in Law and Society and English.