“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou
It is the desire to introduce students to the million different realities through the power of words that in 2004 ignited Carolyn West to found the organization “Thank You Darlin’.”
Any young student who has participated in Thank You Darlin’ can attest the power of words is prevalent not only in the poetry the students create, but also in the connections they make as West engages them in lessons of history and culture relevant to their past, present, and future. As a mentor, West nurtures students’ growth in honing their skills as young scholars and future leaders who take what they’ve learned in their lessons and conversations to inspire others with their poetry.
The community of learners empowered by the support Carolyn West brings into every meeting and writing activity means that each student trusts that whether their words are ever heard by anyone but West and their peers the myriad of emotions and lived experiences are forever a part of the transforming ripple effect that can happen through poetry.
Among the community of young learners West fosters an understanding in each student that they are working together to bridge the gap of differences the world has placed around them. This commitment of community is highlighted in the 2008 publication “Giving Voice to Youth,” a poetry anthology showcasing the skills and creative talents of many elementary students. The pieces featured call up emotions that some might think a third or fourth grade student are too young to mindfully engage with, but because of the foundational care given by West as she guides them through processing their lived experiences and building their repertoire of rhetorical devices each poem relays emotions that any reader can identify with no matter their age.
When founding Thank You Darlin’ the vision of empowering in each student a self-worth that is evident not only in their poetry pieces, but in who they become as students and future leaders. This is an undeniable legacy affirmed and applauded by many parents and former students as they reflect on Carolyn West’s belief that when fostering the power of words in her students she is providing them with the, “tools to paint their own narrative.” There is no greater example of this than in the collaborative poem written by John T. White students of Fort Worth Independent School District in 2019 wherein the first two lines of the poem the students state, “My vision is like a collision, There is no division in my mission.”
As Dr. Maya Angelou has inspired Carolyn West, in turn Carolyn West has inspired a multitude of students to use their words to inspire a million realities of greatness.
Dev’n Goodman is an educator, advocate, and community organizer who is always trying to find ways to engage and grow the community culturally and equitably. No matter the initiative, the goal is always to provide access and opportunity to those whose voices and talents have too often not been amplified.