Congrats to Chris Staudinger, our January Volunteer of the Month! Chris started volunteering with Big Class two years ago on the bilingual book project, Lo Inolvidable, at Grace King High School. Since then, Chris is been a steady force in Big Class's Writers' Room at Sylvanie Williams. In the past month, Chris diligently helped students write letters in response to the 2016 election for our upcoming book. Thanks for all your hard work, Chris!
What first brought you to Big Class?
One of my friends, and then my mom, both heard about Big Class and told me I should look into volunteering since I was struggling to keep up with my writing. I liked how it was a double community of kid writers and adult writers.
What keeps you coming back?
I come back because I want to see what the kids will write. I'm pretty envious of how kids can be like firehoses with their creativity and very random. I also like the challenge of encouraging kids who aren't as free flowing with their writing to realize they've got valuable things to say.
What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?
On a different level, prompts often elicit painful or traumatic memories in students' lives, and those are delicate moments. It can be difficult to imagine what kids sometimes go through at really young ages here in New Orleans. It's also difficult to know how to guide those moments into writing, but when it works, I think writing can be an invaluable outlet. One of my skills is that I understand how difficult it can be to put even the simplest thought onto paper, so I am hopefully a patient teacher for that reason.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?
The biggest challenge for me is letting myself be led by the kids' natural material, rather than trying to lead them towards my own conclusions of what good writing might be. It's fun to watch Ashley work with the kids in the Writers' Room for that reason. She can take some of the kids' most random-seeming responses and engage with them to spark more and more weird material.
What are some great projects you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind one of them if you can.
My first project with big class was the superhero comic book Lo Inolvidable with high school students at Grace King. The students wrote about a time in their lives when they had gone above and beyond and shown some kind of super power, which I think is a brilliant and empowering prompt that we all could probably use. Most of these kids had recently moved to New Orleans from Central America, and they had amazing stories. Many of their drawings were incredible too. One young woman cried when she read her story at the book release, if I remember correctly. It's a good book!
What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?
Outside of Big Class, I work at the Contemporary Arts Center, guide kayak trips in the swamp, write, and march with a color guard team called the Flaming Flagettes.