For a select few Abington Heights High School students, The Gathering at Keystone College, July 17-20, will offer a unique opportunity to explore their creative edginess and imagination on a college campus for the first time with acclaimed authors and lecturers.
Marikay Van Fleet, Jasmin Colon, and Caitlin Dingler are three of less than a dozen AHHS students who will attend The Gathering tuition-free thanks to a grant funding from the Abington Heights Educational Improvement Organization (AEIO).
What began as a literature conference evolved into a three-day creative symposium featuring the visual arts and sciences, literature, and poetry, said one of The Gathering founders and Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Keystone College, Charlotte Ravaioli.
This year, the theme of The Gathering is “On Edge,” and it will explore the edges and intersections of different physical, artistic, and political environments through lectures, book discussions and workshops featuring literature, poetry, the sciences, visual art, music and more.
Ravaioli said one of the long-term goals of The Gathering is to “widen the audience,” which is why the symposium’s founders initially applied for grant funding through AEIO to fund the attendance of AHHS students at The Gathering.
“We especially wanted high school students,” Ravaioli said. “They are some of the most wonderful participants. They are so young and lively and open to new ideas.”
For the 2014 Gathering, AEIO awarded the program $3,000 worth of tuition for 10 Abington Heights High School faculty and students.
The students are already delving into content to be discussed at The Gathering.
Van Fleet said she has “a particular passion for nonfiction,” and recently read “The Art of Controversy,” the latest book from 2014 Gathering presenter and publisher emeritus of The Nation Magazine, Victor Navasky.
The grant funding also covers the cost of books on the reading list so the students may read the presenters’ works beforehand in order to actively participate.
Dingler favored featured presenter Jacquelyn Mitchard’s book, “What We Saw at Night.” Colon said she is currently reading featured presenter Sandy Tolan’s “The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East,” and is most looking forward to meeting the authors and exploring the “On Edge” theme.
“We really take on issues to look at in a thoughtful way by examining themes,” said author Suzanne Fisher Staples, also a founder of The Gathering.
According to Staples, the Gathering’s philosophy includes taking a multi-disciplinary approach to achieve practical goals, and what is used to solve problems in a multitude of disciplines often translates from one to the other.
“We really try to examine the idea of using the imagination to solve problems,” she said.
Colon said she is “really interested in problem solving,” and examining solutions concerning ongoing issues such as conflicts within the Middle East.
Staples said having diversity at The Gathering is extremely important.
“We have people come from all over to offer different perspectives,” she said.
Van Fleet, Colon, and Dingler’s diverse tastes are evident, as they registered for a wide range of workshops from personal exploration and narrative, to poetry, fiction, and visual art.
“All the authors seem very dynamic,” Van Fleet said.
Dingler said she wanted to absorb as much knowledge as she can, and is “very humbled by the opportunity.”
“Not everyone gets this chance,” Colon said.
Other featured presenters at the 2014 Gathering include poet Sonia Sanchez, Keystone College faculty member and volcanologist Ian Saginor, and more. For additional information about The Gathering, visit thegatheringatkeystone.org/registration or call 570-945-8510.