Wall Service Award 2000 Winners

Amy Neevel ’95

Amy Neevel ’95, a teacher, volunteer, and organizer, received a $25,000 grant that will fund a series of slam poetry workshops for New York City youth. Slam poetry, she says, is a nationwide phenomena that “brings sport to poetry.” For the poets, slam can engender emotional, spiritual, and intellectual freedom. Neevel hopes to bring a similar transformation to the lives of troubled teenagers in New York City.

The sites she has chosen for the workshops are: The Island Academy and Rosewood High School, both located within the correctional facilities on Rikers Island; the Hetrick-Martin Institute for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth; and the Family Academy School in Harlem. Twelve accomplished poets will serve as workshop instructors, offering their literary skill, wisdom, and mentoring to the young people. Each workshop will culminate in the publication of a class “chapbook,” or collection of poetry. The students will also get a chance to perform their poetry at poetry slams.

“The goal is to create a community through storytelling. Many young people have to deal with very adult issues, and tell poignant stories about violence and loss. Studies show that it is therapeutic for individuals who have been traumatized to write about their experiences,” Neevel continues, “Being honest about your emotions can de-escalate the violence... I hope that they come away with a greater sense of community and self-worth.”

Lorie Hill ’68

Lorie Hill ’68, a teacher and psychologist, received a $25,000 Wall Service Award that will fund a violence prevention program at five San Francisco area homeless shelters. The Jump Start workshops teach people of all ages to work out conflicts instead of fighting. Developed in 1988 for use in schools, the program uses violence prevention as a framework forteaching negotiation skills, unlearning racism, and deconstructing the cultural biases that underlie other forms of prejudice. Participants learn how to think critically about why we use violence to defend self-respect in our culture, and to explore other ways of de-escalating tense situations.

Hill says that homeless shelters bring together in close proximity some of the most stressed and least valued people in our society--and many of those people are children. Her goal is to help prevent new trauma among these children and adults by helping them manage and handle conflict. An interracial team of facilitators leads the workshops, which use powerful exercise, role-playing, skits, films, and conversations, all designed for the developmental level of the participants. "If my work creates change in one life, and that person can turn around and teach one other person how to live in a safe and respectful way, that is what this work is about for me," says Hill.

Learn more about the Wall Service Award and see other previous winners.