Symone Green '19
What does being an English major mean to you?
Being an English major means knowing that my way of thinking and my way of understanding the world makes sense. I just love when I have the opportunity to be a language-loving nerd with other English majors. It’s hard growing up as the kid who loves five-paragraph essays, so I’m grateful for the sense of community here within the English department.
Has teaching English as a second language guided you to look at your studies differently?
Being able to teach English as a second language let me pair my two passions of teaching and community service, which felt great, knowing that what I covered in class with my students would directly apply to and benefit their daily lives.
You grew up in Western Massachusetts. Has this influenced your relationship to your ESL learners?
I feel like I’m at home when I’m in my ESL class. I’m from Springfield, which represents a different Western Massachusetts than Amherst and South Hadley. My students are immigrants from a range of countries, and most are people of color from Africa, Asia, and South America. One of the best moments in my classroom was when a student said I looked like her “nieta”—her granddaughter. I never met my grandmothers, so it was really touching. It has definitely made me feel more connected to Amherst.
Have any of your UMass classes, within or outside of English, significantly changed any of your educational perspectives?
My freshman year, I took a two-semester Service Learning course, IMPACT, in which I spent a year with ESL students as a teaching assistant. We covered many writers in the classroom, from Howard Zinn to bell hooks, whose work has really changed my outlook on life. I’m currently in an Afro-American Studies course on the history of my hometown, which involves a project element, so I’ll be leading poetry workshops for a few schools in the area. Learning through teaching others is one of the greatest opportunities the university has given me.
What is your favorite part of language?
Language’s ability to evoke feeling and tap into emotions—it’s everything to me. Putting words together, in a way that sounds and feels right, is thrilling. It’s also necessary for me; if I’m not able to put how I am feeling into words and onto paper, I’m not satisfied.
How does poetry function in your life?
Poetry has become my favorite form of writing. I’ve kept journals since I learned how to write, but I just recently explored poetry. I was maybe seventeen when I felt I had written my first poem, meaning it was the first time it felt organic. It’s very fun for me, to put my thoughts in different poetic forms and to try out different devices. Sometimes it can be stressful, but it is always rewarding.
Do you ever relate music to poetry? If so, what music in particular?
I think my love for poetry developed through my love for music. I would love to take on songwriting. My favorite songs have really impressive lyrics, in my opinion, which I find in a range of genres and artists. I’m currently tuned into Devendra Banhart, Solange, Noname and Father John Misty.
Congratulations on being selected to read at this year’s Five College Poetry Fest! What has this recognition meant to you?
Thank you so much! This recognition has really helped my motivation for academic success. I’ve learned it’s easy to beat yourself up about a bad grade, or having your GPA marked lower than in the past, and the transition from freshman year to sophomore year proved to be especially difficult for me. Having my work recognized validated my goals and made my dreams feel less lofty, and I’m really grateful for that.
What did you contribute?
I shared three poems: an elegy, “Emmett Till,” and two odes, “Angel Sighting #1: A Holy Moment in a Hell,” and “Skin Ode,” all poems I produced last semester.
Besides your academic and creative involvement on campus, you’re active in many extracurricular activities as well. Can you talk about the different programs you’ve been involved in?
I’m a Co-Manager at Greeno Sub Shop, one of the seven student-run businesses on campus. It’s a very supportive network, and sometimes we have events together. We also collaborate with UMass’ radio station WMUA Amherst, teaming up to coordinate the Open Mic Nights at Greeno. It’s nice to have student-coordinated events, since the things we, as students, are capable of creating are fascinating and endless. I’m also a troupe member of the Not Ready for Bedtime Players, where I’ve met some of the funniest people in my life. Last summer, I worked with Jump!, a summer program for incoming freshmen, and this summer I will be a Program Assistant for the Juniper Institute for Young Writers.
How has UMass allowed you to explore this range of activities?
I think it’s all due to the size of UMass; there are still so many clubs and events I haven’t gotten to participate in yet that interest me. In a way I feel like I’m just beginning to utilize all of the amazing resources available here.
And how has being a local affected your experience as a UMass student?
It has definitely made my college experience more comfortable. My father is five minutes away by car, and my mother is forty. It’s also made me even more proud to call Western Massachusetts my home. I grew up in Springfield, a city whose reputation makes some people flinch. People rarely hear about the scientists and artists that are from Springfield—that are the product of Springfield Public Schools—and it’s time we’ve changed that.