After Caity Gladstone graduated from Sweet Briar College in 2009, she pursued an M.F.A. at Hollins University in Roanoke. These days, she’s teaching 8th-grade writing classes at Carver Middle School in Chester.
About a month ago, she partnered with one of her colleagues to register their students to attend the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, which is hosted each October by Longwood University. After all, what better way to foster a love of reading in their young students? They ran into a problem, however: All the buses were spoken for and they would have to hire a chartered bus.
Hiring a bus was outside of their budget, so Gladstone and her colleague asked their students’ parents to contribute. It soon became clear that the money for the charter bus was going to be hard to come by and that they wouldn’t be able to make the trip happen.
In true Sweet Briar fashion, Gladstone wasn’t willing to accept defeat. She knew that she could call on the alumnae from both of her alma maters to help make the trip possible.
“I have always believed in the amazing support of both of these small liberal arts colleges, and they really came through,” she said.
The Hollins and Sweet Briar alumnae communities raised enough money to not only refund the parents who had already contributed, but also create a fund for future trips. Even better, they raised the amount in a mere eight hours. Such generosity and support is a hallmark of both schools, which emphasize leadership, problem-solving and service to society.
Because of these alumnae, Gladstone’s students were able to attend the festival and get inspiration for their own writing. They got to meet several authors — including Aisha Saeed, Meg Medina, Lamar Giles, Dhonielle Clayton, Liz Garton Scanlon and Jarret Krosoczka — and learn about their writing processes
“Many of the students got to speak with authors one-on-one after the sessions,” Gladstone said. “More than a couple of them said the workshops were especially useful and that they planned on using the authors’ techniques in the future when they need inspiration or have writer’s block. I think they also got a great message that authors are diverse, and so is my student population.”
One student, Abbey Colomb, said, “I think I came away from that field trip knowing that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Everyone starts somewhere and though you may have a talent for writing, nobody is going to be writing publishing-worthy books in the eighth grade. We can’t let that stop up us. We need to keep writing so that we can learn from mistakes.”