Building up Literacy: Kingsville, TX, Housing Authority Project

Sigma Tau Delta Service AwardTexas A&M University—Kingsville’s Gamma Phi Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta received a Sigma Tau Delta Service Award for its Building up Literacy Project, which encourages children in the Kingsville Housing Authority‘s After School Program to read more.

Inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Gamma Phi decided to work on the promotion of literacy in their local community by collecting children’s books to donate to the Kingsville Housing Authority.

In the fall semester of 2016, Gamma Phi members wrapped donation boxes in red paper. These boxes were then distributed in strategic locations throughout the campus. Members would gather the donations weekly, eventually collecting approximately 250 books.

Gamma Phi members decided to go one step further by constructing and painting bookshelves to donate along with the books, essentially allowing them to donate a complete reading library for the Kingsville Housing Authority’s After School Program. They built eight bookshelves, painting them in bright primary colors: orange, yellow, green, and blue.

On April 12, 2017, Gamma Phi members transported the books and shelves to the Kingsville Housing Authority, formally presenting the donation to the children and staff of the After School Program.

At the Induction Ceremony and Senior Celebration Banquet, on April 29, 2017, members were happy to present a plaque commemorating the donation, along with the $500 check from the Sigma Tau Delta Service Award, to representatives from the Kingsville Housing Authority. It was a wonderful way to wrap up such a worthwhile project.

PWrightPamela Wright
2017 Service Award Recipient
Gamma Phi Chapter, Chapter Sponsor
Texas A&M University—Kingsville, Kingsville, TX

Sigma Tau Delta Service Award

Applications due by April 9, 2018

Sigma Tau Delta’s Service Award honors local chapters performing exemplary community service projects and benefit the agencies served by those chapters. The Society will make a limited number of awards, each of which will consist of a plaque for the chapter and a contribution of up to $500 to the agency. Winning chapters may also receive up to $350 in travel assistance for sending at least one student representative to the annual convention to participate in a workshop and/or roundtable. Winning chapters are encouraged to share a chapter exhibit at the convention.

Apply for a Service Award

How to Use English to Create Cultural Connections

Martin HeadJonathan Martin
Associate Student Representative, Southwestern Region, 2015-2016
Rho Mu Chapter
Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City, OK

Last summer I gained a new appreciation for language. I spent the six weeks between May 17 and June 28 in Yaizu City, Shizuoka, Japan. The value of language as a method to exchange ideas has never been clearer. My trip’s purpose was to converse with local residents who were interested in increasing their English conversational skills.

During my time there, I met some incredible people and had some wonderful conversations about the different ways we viewed the world. One of my regular conversation partners brought an aged copy of the King James Bible in English she’d found on her grandfather’s bookshelf of Buddhist texts. She asked if I would be willing to read through it with her, and I was. We only made it about nine or ten chapters into Genesis, but every single time we met, the conversation covered definitions of obsolete words, archaic grammar rules, ancient Babylonian mythology, and our individual views on what we were reading. It was an intelligent, respectful trading of thoughts and ideas across gender, age, and cultural gaps.

Japan--MartinThese days, I feel this type of enlightening conversation is lost in the constant stream of shouting matches dominating social media every other week. Language isn’t about who can yell louder and longer than their opponent. It’s about communion, the coming together to share both commonalities and differences.

Too often, people become caught up in “right vs. wrong” or “me vs. you” debates that divide rather than bring together. I know in my own heart, I am guilty of wanting to be proven “correct” rather than sitting down and conversing with a friend about a topic of mutual passion. I’m striving to change this about myself so I can better engage with and understand the world around me.

I can say with certainty my trip changed my life for the better. My eyes have seen the community, love, and tolerance that are possible when two people treat each other with respect and sincerity.

Tell us about your experiences sharing the English language with someone from a different culture in the comments below.

Simon Ortiz: Real Writing

rdurborowRobert Durborow
Student Advisor, 2014-2016
Pi Omega Chapter
Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY

My first impression of Simon Ortiz at the 2015 Sigma Tau Delta Annual Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can be summed up in a single word: real. What I mean is the man is genuine, has an opinion and character, and shows these qualities in what he writes, how he lives, and how he interacts with others, particularly in the literary field. He is real, and so is his writing.

I was honored to host Mr. Ortiz for the aforementioned event, and so had the opportunity to spend significant time with him. It was an absolute honor and privilege. Simon refers to himself and his people as “indigenous people,” rather than “Native American” or “Indian,” both somewhat derogatory appellations. What Simon means in using the term indigenous is simply that his people were already here when the rest of the world arrived. The word is real, and describes exactly who and what Simon and his people are. Perhaps you begin to understand why, like Simon, I choose my descriptive word very carefully and call him real.

Simon’s writing is no less real than the writer himself. His poetry and short stories speak in honest words about actual situations and experiences. The Common Reader for this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention, From Sand Creek, is a book of Simon’s poetry which examines the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. As Simon read from and discussed these poems, his quiet, powerful words filled the vast ballroom in such a powerful manner, every ear listened with eager intent. I have been to many entertaining literary events, but never one quite as engaging and meaningful as Simon’s. The ring of truth in his carefully composed verse is completely inescapable and cannot help but change the reader . . . or the listener. He can lay you bare to the bone and sew you up in the next sentence. That takes rather significant writing skill.

Simon Ortiz and Robert Durborow

Simon did not speak too much about his writing process, except to say that all of his writing derives from life experience and his personal culture. His reading and address, even his answers to audience questions, were carefully considered and well spoken. “Words have power,” he said, “use them on purpose and use them wisely.” These few syllables, so carefully crafted, have great power and it is nigh on impossible to dispute them.

Simon delivered his address and reading simultaneously and so seamlessly I could not distinguish between the address and his poetry and short stories. What this shows me, as a writer, is that Simon is always in the story (or poem). “I write to tell people what I know,” Simon told me at his book signing, “I tell stories, and there are always new ones.” I can think of no better reason to write. Simon agrees. He told me that some people write to entertain or for fun, but he is not one of those. Simon writes because he has something important to say that people need to hear. That is why I write as well. No wonder we got on so well.

The theme of this year’s Sigma Tau Delta convention was “Borderlands and Enchantments.” Simon Ortiz comes from The Land of Enchantment, and knows a thing or two about borders, physical, philosophical, and political. Simon bridges those borders through the written word, predominately through poetry. His words draw two very different worlds closer together, have done so for decades, and promise to continue the journey for some time to come. Would that we could all write in such an utterly real fashion. The world would become the better place Simon and I believe it can be.

Sigma Tau Delta 2016 Convention, March 2-5, Minneapolis, MN
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