By Evan Silvera
For The Diamondback
Fourteen-year-old Christopher Lemus said he and his family are fearful of repercussions from President Trump's administration.
Lemus and other Northwestern High School students worked with a University of Maryland class to "create social advocacy pieces centered around the theme of fear," said Danielle Griffin, the course's instructor and a doctoral candidate studying English at this university. They showcased those artistic works Friday in a performance titled "Fear: The Final Frontier."
The course, ENGL292: Writing For Change, "engages students interested in writing for social change and how to create change in their communities," Griffin said.
About 70 students and faculty members gathered in Tawes Hall's Ulrich Recital Hall for the event. The student performances consisted of spoken word poetry, skits, videos, photographs and both personal and impersonal narratives.
Tim Ghazzawi, who teaches ninth-grade English at Northwestern High School, said the theme was chosen because many of his students fear their lives could change during Trump's presidency.
"It seemed like a natural topic given the political climate that exists, particularly in communities of color," Ghazzawi said.
Students produced a video skit called "Trumping Fear," in which Lemus played Trump in an interview, highlighting the president's "hypocritical attitude."
"This fear is pretty personal to me," said Lemus, who is Hispanic. "Some of my family fears Donald Trump and what could happen to our family if anyone is sent away."
Trump signed an executive order in March banning citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days; a judge in Hawaii placed the order on hold later that month. The president is also proposing to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico.
The high school has a total minority enrollment of 97 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report, and while many students voiced anxieties over immigration policies, other performances focused on racial discrimination and domestic violence.
"Most of the students have chosen to talk about fears that are exigent and relate to the social and political climate," Griffin said.
The program is in its fifth year, she said. The class was designed out of a need to connect this university to the greater College Park community. Northwestern High School was specifically chosen due to its high dropout rates, she added. The school has a graduation rate of 67 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report.
It's challenging to engage students in the material, said Tristan Madden, a junior journalism major at this university and a student enrolled in the course.
"I learned that teaching isn't about going in there and depositing knowledge into these kids," Madden said. "It's an interactive process that requires listening to them and speaking to them in terms they can understand."
Despite the more challenging aspects of the course, Madden said working with the students helped him realize the difficulties educators face in getting through to students.
"Everything about this class has given me a newfound respect for teachers, professors, mentors, tutors and educators of all kinds," Madden said.
The course also teaches patience, said senior Jordan Gorsuch, a senior bioengineering major and a student enrolled in the course.
"At first, the kids are so timid and nervous around us," Gorsuch said. "But we work with them every week, trying not only to help them grow as writers but also people."
Some of these kids don't always have a "broad base of role models," Ghazzawi said. However, this collaboration gives them a glimpse of a college student's life.
"The program promotes dialogue between high school students and college students about issues that speak to their daily lives and topics that affect them personally," Ghazzawi said.