On Monday, December 19, Bobbie Serensky’s AP English Literature classes hosted a virtual discussion with Richard Blanco, President Barack Obama’s 2012 inaugural poet. According to Blanco’s online biography, he is the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in this role. Before meeting Blanco, Serensky’s class studied several of his poems, many from his third book of poetry, “Looking for The Gulf Motel” (2012).
Due to a generous grant from the Chagrin Falls Educational Foundation Student Board, Serensky immediately secured Blanco as a speaker when he agreed to meet with students. Blanco relayed his enthusiasm: “This feels wonderful. I love connecting with high school students and am grateful for teachers who love poetry.”
Serensky could barely contain her enthusiasm when telling her students about plans to work with Blanco. She shared, “I always look for opportunities for my students to interact with living writers. Working with esteemed poet Richard Blanco was truly a unique honor.”
Upon reflection, students shared that they benefited in numerous ways from conversing with Blanco.
“Sharing our class's collective love for poetry with such an accomplished poet was a great opportunity,” said senior Nathan Hill. “I have come away from Richard Blanco’s visit even more enthused about poetry and creative writing than I was before.”
“Following our interaction with Richard Blanco, I was left with this incredible impression of a poet whose work reflects man’s depth and vulnerability,” said senior Sarah McCort. “I am definitely going to read more of Blanco’s poetry for its beauty and cleverness.”
“Richard Blanco provided an incredible experience for us to learn from a true master of poetry,” said senior Ryan Hill. “I think we all feel incredibly inspired to make our writing more authentic and creative because of him.”
Chagrin Falls Educational Foundation Student Board President Andrew Nachtwey shared, “The experience I had with Richard Blanco will forever resonate with me due to his understanding and recognition of topics that apply to most, if not all, Americans.”
In the past, Serensky has taken her students to downtown Cleveland to listen to writers such as Billy Collins and Matthew Desmond and met online with famous local novelist Thrity Umrigar. Serensky’s students continue to enjoy this type of transformative experience. “I value giving students opportunities to engage in live moments with authors,” said Serensky. “They understand the writing process and the power of literature in a way that simply cannot happen within the confines of our classroom.”