The vivid, poignant article on former journalist John Van Hyning proved quite effective to share with some of my English composition students at Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Chandler, Ariz. (southeastern Phoenix metro area). The theme of this particular writing course is "Community and Culture," and included students putting in a few hours of community service on which they based their final writing projects.
Since a number of students had chosen to work with agencies dealing with the homeless in our area, a recurring theme in both recent class discussions and student writing is that one can never know nor assume what type of life a homeless person may have had. Further, there is no one set of reasons why a person may end up living in the streets.
Many students went into the project with one set of assumptions and emerged with significantly different ideas about their community. The class consensus was that generating broader awareness of a society's problems is an essential step toward finding solutions.
When reading aloud excerpts from this Source piece near the end of one classroom discussion, I could have heard a pin drop by the time I reached the conclusion. Of course, I prefaced its presentation by a brief overview of St. Thomas and my experiences during the time l lived there from 1980 to 1995. It is a place most students here know merely as a cruise-ship destination, if that.
We, too, live in a land of contrasts here in the Valley of the Sun, another winter tourist destination. Because of its comparative size and relative ease of attaining insularity, many people here may never have to consider people's plights that are very different from their own.
Thank you for including this slice of realism that both informs and teaches. I can't help but think there are so many more such stories begging to be written in the Virgin Islands and elsewhere.
Amy Burns Williams
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
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