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Unleashing Creativity: How Aims Community College is Shaping the Future of Aspiring Writers

Through an array of opportunities, Aims students are not just learning the art of writing; they're achieving national recognition and forging connections that extend far beyond the college’s borders.

Selfie of Aims faculty and students at the Sigma Delta Kappa convention
Aims English Honor Society members pose for a selfie at the 2024 Sigma Delta Kappa convention.

Aims nurtures emerging writers by providing a wealth of opportunities for growth, recognition, and connection. With the chance to partake in events like the English Honor Society convention and contribute to the Aims Review, students enjoy the benefits of small class sizes and personalized feedback. This environment fosters professional writing experience and cultivates connections within and beyond the college community.

“Our department is so supportive of student work and focuses on student success,” said Aims English Professor Stacey Johnson. “Our students are fantastic, so amazing.”

English Honor Society Convention and Awards

This year, the Aims English Honor Society (AEHS) members achieved remarkable recognition at the Sigma Delta Kappa (SDK) convention on April 3-6, 2024, in Saint Louis, Missouri, by winning awards in poetry, short story, and essay writing as well as in photography.

SKD is the National English Honor Society for Two-Year Colleges. The following is a complete list of the award winners: 

  • First Place Short Fiction | Sundance Hollingsworth 
  • First Place Poetry | Sundance Hollingsworth
  • First Place Essay | Mariah Crawford 
  • First and Second Place Photography | April Singer
  • Second Place Literary Journal | Aims Review
  • Third Place Literary Analysis | Jamie Calahan

Sundance Hollingsworth attributes his winning short fiction award to the work he completed in his creative writing class and workshops at Aims. “Workshopping is the most valuable tool I've had in a very long time. I think that ultimately led to it being a much stronger piece.” His winning horror story is about an older gentleman who's grieving and has a drinking problem. “I wanted to write this story that spoke about deeper themes, and since that was on my mind. I tried to make the story as allegorical as I could without it being like a fable.”

students smiling at conference
Mariah Crawford and Sundance Hollingsworth at the Sigma Delta Kappa convention.

Hollingsworth’s winning poem, "You'll Be a Man, My Son, " is a response piece to Rudyard Kipling's poem, “If.” Hollingsworth says, “The poem that he wrote is about masculinity and what it means, but written like the nineteenth century. It was me responding to that and being like, my thoughts on masculinity and toxic masculinity and what either of those things mean.” 

He says both pieces were very personal and “deeply uncomfortable to share, but in a good way, in a growth way.”

Mariah Crawford’s winning essay was born from a very personal experience. “It is about what it feels like to live with a chronic illness, and how I speak about my chronic illness, and how I try to tell other people about it has changed over time.”

At the SDK awards ceremony, AEHS Faculty Advisor Megan Friesen was recognized for her ten years of service. Over the years, Professor Friesen has seen how undergraduates attend an academic conference and how it can contribute to student's sense of belonging at their college and larger academic community. She recently published a “Building Sense of Belonging Through Undergraduate Conference Attendance” case study in the “Journal for Campus Activities Practice & Scholarship.” 

Friesen’s research found that conferences positively impact students’ appreciation for their college and increase engagement in the larger academic community. This type of academic participation that Aims offers benefits students and the entire learning community. 

The Aims Review

Mariah Crawford and Sundance Hollingsworth with a copy of the Aims Review
Mariah Crawford and Sundance Hollingsworth with a copy of the Aims Review.

Stacey Johnson and Karen McCurley-Hardesty have been the Aims Review faculty sponsors for the past seven years. Stephanie Newton, Department Chair of Visual and Performing Arts, began co-sponsoring the publication this year. 

The Aims Review is a campus literary and arts magazine. The project highlights poetry, fiction, non-fiction, visual, and multi-media art. These creative works are submitted during the fall semester and published the following spring. Selected content appears online and in a print journal. Selected artists were honored at a live publication launch event on May 1. The publication placed second in the SDK National Literary Journal competition. 

Hollingsworth and Crawford, who have won individual writing awards, are also among the student co-editors of the Aims Review and have pieces of work in the latest issue. Both encourage others to submit work for publication. “Getting involved with the Aims Review enriches your college experience. Builds your sense of self and your sense of community,” Crawford said. 

Visit the Aims Review website or pick up a hard copy on campus to see the incredible creative works of our Aims community. 

Opportunities to Build Connection

Aims students interested in honing their creative writing skills have many chances to get professional writing experiences and form connections inside and outside the college.

“I think that's what Aims has done: to take something elusive and mysterious to many students interested in writing,” Crawford said. “Things like the Aims Review, the English Honor Society, and the creative writing classes that Aims offers have helped provide an outlet for students, a way to see their work in print, and to get satisfaction from that achievement.”

In addition to the SDK convention and the Aims Review, students had other opportunities this spring to get involved and engage with the outside creative community this semester.

Aims Department Chair of English, Communication & Literature, Evan Oakley, is actively involved in the Loveland Poet Laureate Program and worked to get Carolyn Forché, an internationally renowned award-winning poet, scholar, and human rights advocate, to come to Loveland for the annual Loveland Poet Laureate Program. This two-day event included a reception, a reading, and a conversation between Forché and Oakley, who worked with Forché on her ground-breaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness. Aims students received special access to the event and had an opportunity to meet Forché. Aims students such as Crawford and Hollingsworth were invited to share their poetry with her. 

“These kinds of opportunities are really rare,” Johnson said. “It's amazing that at the community college level, we can be so connected and take advantage of these opportunities.”

With this positive momentum, Aims will continue its engagement with student writers by providing them access to conferences, events, special projects, and more to enhance their writing and publishing experience while in school.