At Co-Op, They Caught the Creativity

Jay Dockendorf PhotoIn the same month as The New Yorker released its list of the best “20 Under 40” writers, Co-Op High School debuted works by “10 under 20” of its best fiction writers.

“Five Months” and “The Day I Was Born” are short stories by Ileana Alvarez Diaz and Mary Inge, respectively. The two are tenth graders at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School and, as of Friday, recently published authors.

Their latest works came about through the pair’s enrollment in “Catch the Creativity,” an after-school program presented in partnership by C-=op High, Co-op Center for Creativity, Inc., and Dwight Hall at Yale.

Nearly half a semester of “thinking out of the box” and “learning different styles of writing” produced a sanguine effect on the teens, who enthusiastically vouched for the program’s value at its closing-night gala Friday.

The girls had participated in a creative writing class that collectively authored and published a book, “The Unscripted Words and Memories of Unknown Writers.” At least 45 more students took part in five other programs: glee club, mural painting, playwriting and staging, acting, and filmmaking.

Each program met twice a week after the end of schooldays, operating under the direction of master instructors. Co-Op students in the mural project had the opportunity to consult with Swiss artist Felice Varini to make their own site-specific perspectival painting.

The sometimes raucous ceremony showcased student work in each category. Acting students put up “Death Knocks,” a play by Woody Allen, with four pairs of actresses (four “Nat"s and four “Death"s) delivering lines simultaneously. Two student-written plays, “The Shovel” by Eddie Chase and “The Painful Truth,” by Jovonne Pullen, premiered. The glee club, Major Progression, closed the night with arrangements of “We Will Rock You,” “Imagine,” and “Don’t Stop Believing.”

All participants received an award from the principal and the superintendent. Those with “excellent attendance” received a small stipend of $20 - $100.

Statewide, over 100 such programs receive a total of $12.5 million per year in federal and state funding, said Dr. Agnes Quinones of the Connecticut State Department of Education, who introduced Friday evening’s program.

Alvarez Diaz soon thereafter introduced her story (which she described as the tale of “a boy and girl having fun in a romantic way”) with a dedication to “someone in the audience.” The power of suggestion was enough to draw a boisterous “Oooooh” from the crowd. She smiled and started reading.

Head organizers Helen Kauder, Andria Matthews and Johnny Scafidi expect a similar after-school program with return towards the end of the fall semester. Several Co-Op students not involved in this year’s program said they hope to partake next semester.

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