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Writing Center helps refugees, immigrants through community literacy outreach

A display of various writing exercises and activities done by CGA students who have participated in the Writing Studio. Credit: Shanti Lerner | Lantern Reporter

The Ohio State Writing Center is normally known as a place that offers a convenient resource for students and university community members seeking free help with their writing projects. There is, however, a lesser known aspect to the Writing Center that stretches into the wider Columbus community.

In the Global Art Exhibition, the Writing Center will showcase the artwork of refugee and immigrant students that have taken part in its semester-long language immersion program called the Writing Studio on Monday at Thompson Library.

The Writing Studio is a program created during Autumn Semester, is a collaboration between the Ohio State Writing Center and Columbus Global Academy, a middle school and high school that educates refugee and immigrant students that are new to the United States.

This collaboration is a weekly writing workshop that is facilitated by Ohio State graduate and undergraduate students. Each week, the Writing Studio brings together CGA students from all walks of life, experiences, and language backgrounds with the goal of improving their English language skills.

“We really recognized the importance of doing community literacy outreach and that Ohio State ought to have a connection with the local community, ” Dr. Genie Giaimo, director of the Ohio State Writing Center, said. “This student population really could benefit from ongoing interaction between college students, graduate students and middle and high school students.”

CGA School logo is a Lion with countries from all over the world represented on its mane. The logo was created by the Community Refugee & Immigrant Services. Credit: Alex Straaik

In addition to the writing exercises and grammar activities, the Writing Studio teachers also asked students to create artwork as a way to encourage group speaking, brainstorming and reflection in English. The art project also offered a way to integrate CGA students into the Ohio State community.

“A lot of those folks [CGA students] have expressed interest in attending college but felt like it is an inaccessible environment for a host of reasons, like geographically, politically, economically, so we wanted to make them feel like they are part of their community and they are, so that integration seemed really important,” said Alex Straaik, graduate student in nursing.  

The Global Art Exhibition will showcase these students’ progress throughout the program and give them the opportunity to visit Ohio State. The exhibit will include various forms of expression, such as knitting, painting, mixed media work and artist statements. Although the Writing Studio is only a semester-long program, it has offered CGA students a lifetime of opportunities through language and art on their journeys in a new country.  

We have kind of thought about it in two ways. In the one way, our government doesn’t provide English immersion for immigrants, no matter how they come here, while other countries that do it kind of set people up for success because English is like the number one global language right now,” Straaik said.

“In a more global context, learning English is more essential. But the other part of that is, most of our students are multilingual, and we also want to make sure that them learning English is like an adjunct in language so that they can navigate the spaces in the U.S and in the world in English but also keep their own language and sensibility.”

The Global Art Exhibition will take place at Monday at Thompson Library 150, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

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