Name: Bernadette DeVito
From: Eagle Bridge, NY
“What is a cloud?” I ask.
The adults who had been writing diligently for the past five minutes
looked up to the sky accordingly. It was a windy August afternoon and
the clouds drooped low. If we reached up, they might tickle our
fingertips. As the facilitator of a poetry group, I often encourage
deep thought by posing these questions. I work with a range of
individuals with mental disabilities and find that they greatly
benefit from connecting feelings with tangible objects or concepts.
My group pondered clouds for a couple minutes, then each person offered
his or her insight. One man explained that clouds are masses of
condensed water vapor. I affirmed his comment, but explained that we
were speaking figuratively. The gentleman confessed that he was
unable to disassociate from what is scientifically plausible in order
to think imaginatively, and asked how to go about doing so.
I began to consider his question by researching connections between
literature and science. Never before had I considered this a
possibility; from a young age, students are tracked as one of two
types of people: those who are interested in science or humanities –
I had been sanctioned as a humanities student early on. While
researching, I found that literature had had a profound influence on
both science and technology. Clearly, what we learn, in addition to
the written word, are not simply black and white.
I began volunteering at Bennington Project Independence with the
intention of helping attendees; now, I realize that ours is a
mutually beneficial relationship. The community of people I am
surrounded by allow me to think simplistically and appreciate the
immeasurable qualities of my character. By performing public service,
I am reminded daily that – in contrast to the intellectually
competitive world we live in – it is most important to appreciate
our differences as people.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most revered quote was, “I have a
dream…” Young adults are often prodded about their dreams –
more specifically – what they imagine to be the American Dream. I
know from the time I have spent with individuals from various,
contrasting backgrounds, that there is no one American Dream, but an
ever-expanding number. While the Dream of an affluent American may be
to travel the world, or become a CEO, many I have met hope to use
their limbs, learn to read, or write a note. Upholding the beliefs of
Dr. King is not only advancing the idea of the conventional American
Dream, but accepting and aiding others’ in achieving all dreams.
As I became more involved in volunteering, my passion for poetry and
aiding those with mental disabilities blossomed. I began researching
the labor opportunities available given my unique interests, and
stumbled upon poetry therapy. Never before that moment had I
experienced a life-altering epiphany: at sixteen years old and a
junior in high school, I yearned to graduate and fulfill all
necessary requirements to become a licensed poetry therapist.
Idealistically, my educational experience and professional career would parallel that
of my poetry group: diverse in every aspect, promote personal
inquiry, and celebrate the pursuit of various dreams or interests. A
college or career that brings together different ideas, perspectives
and lifestyles can harness these differences to create a warm
atmosphere, and provide its patrons a meaningful life. An institution
devoted to the art of learning would uphold the belief that if one is
satisfied with his or her education, he or she has not learned at
all. To be truly educated, I realized volunteering, is to never lose
curiosity and the desire to learn.
Today, a cloud may symbolize my life as an advocate of volunteerism –
lofty, steadily nearing, and seemingly within an arm’s reach.