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Melissa Marazas '13

2012 Soar Student

Melissa Marazas '13

Major/minor: English with Elementary Education Certification

Hometown: Collegeville, Pa.

Project: Creative Expression for the Rural Indian Youth

Project advisor: Dr. Kristin Baxter

Project details: Nokukhanya Langa and I spent the past summer working on our SOAR project in India. Our summer SOAR project involved evoking creative expression from students who were in middle school. We facilitated a five-week summer program which had the students in the classroom working with different art mediums, which allowed the students to express certain aspects of their life, such as home, social development, spiritual, cultural, personal and future goals. Our project documented what we did with the students, the artistic projects they completed, as well as the obstacles they faced due to the varying cultural differences.

Why I wanted to participate in SOAR: I wanted to participate in the SOAR program because I wanted to complete an academic project that would be the foundation for my entire career within the Elementary Education field. I wanted to have an experience that would also subject me to new perspectives; I desired an experience that would change me as both a teacher and a person. I wanted to participate in the SOAR program at Moravian University, specifically, because I felt that by having the guidance from an advisor within Nokukhanya’s and my academic field, in addition t, resources and support from the Moravian community, would make our project more successful. With the help of Dr. Baxter and the faculty affiliated with the SOAR program, I feel that Nokukhanya and I completed a project that far exceeded our expectations and even our initial project goals.

Results: Over the course of five weeks, 21 students, in a government school in rural India, enrolled in our creative expression program and produced artistic creations describing their lives in rural India. These students created their own art; they used their previous experiences, imagination and creativity to tell their life story. They produced amazing visual creations which could provide someone, who does not reside in their corner of the world, with a taste of what their life and their culture is like. Because of the creative pieces the students produced, which were documented by Nokukhanya and me, these students described their unique and personal human potential—which may ultimately lead to a deeper grasp of the importance of global understanding.

Future plans: Nokukhanya and I plan to further our project. One of our initial goals is to create a website to describe the entire project. This website will also document the students’ individual work, in addition to group work. We feel that by having their work featured on the Internet, an international stage, we will bridge the physical gap we have with these students because of our opposite locations on this planet. We made unique bonds with these students and by having a place where Nokukhanya and I can go, in addition to our students, where we can continue deepening our understanding of our different cultures, spiritualities, and ways of living, would be an effective way of supporting the overarching goals of our project.

In October, we will present our SOAR project at the Pennsylvania Art Education Association 2012 Annual Conference in Harrisburg. Nokukhanya and I, in conjunction with Dr. Baxter, will work together to create an article that will be featured in an art/education related journal.

Nokukhanya and I have also been planning to go back and execute the project again in India. We realize that this is a huge dream and we are trying to figure out ways to make this possible. Because we will be graduating at the end of this academic year and will potentially be “going out into the real world” and dealing with many more responsibilities shortly after that, we have to really decide what we want with our lives these next couple of years. However, we both value global understanding and how this can be facilitated through the arts.