By Sean Hutzell
Touchstones kicked off the school year with one last day of fun in the sun at Sandy Point Park in Annapolis, MD. Our dedicated team of staff and volunteers ensured an evening of excellent food, competitive games, and words from dedicated teachers about the importance of Touchstones programs in their classrooms. Funds raised during that event will provide 15 teachers with free access to Touchstones workshops this year!
Among those who attended were local Touchstones friends already active as advocates for Touchstones programs in the community, and some of those friends brought new folks to the event. It was great to welcome the newcomers into our ever-expanding circle of friends throughout the evening. Events on tap included an animated cornhole tournament. With some exceptionally skilled players scoring to the dismay of their opponents, and some also exceptionally wild throws offering amusement, the evening was quickly filled with sounds of laughter and camaraderie. After hard fought games, winners of the tournament walked away showcasing their victory with prizes of beach umbrellas. Guests also enjoyed other games, including bocce ball, before devouring delicious food catered by Loretta Hohmann, one of Touchstones’ fabulous Eastern Shore volunteers.
During the short program portion of the event, guests heard from two dedicated teachers: Suzan Powell, who uses Touchstones in her Employment Readiness Workshop at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, and Liam Dempsey, who teaches middle school English/ Language Arts at Phoenix Academy in Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Suzan offered her experience with Touchstones in the prison system—how she first saw it in action late in 2015 and thought it was magical to see incarcerated
women sitting in a circle collaborating and listening to each other. She wondered what program could make such engagement possible and asked the Touchstones staff to come into her classroom. Now she co-participates in weekly Touchstones discussions and helps model positive and constructive forms of thinking and interaction for women who will be released back into society. Liam, who works exclusively with students with learning and emotional disabilities requiring specialized educational support, spoke about privilege. He made note of the positive and negative connotations of a word that now speaks to advantages associated with race, gender, socio-economics, and educational attainment. Liam said it had been a privilege for him to work at Touchstones as our Summer Teaching Fellow and to have used Touchstones with his students last academic year—sharing with them the benefit of finding their voices. “My students,” he explained, “rarely feel as if their voices are of any value. Touchstones helps them to express themselves and be heard.” Liam is looking forward to returning to the classroom this week and continuing his work with his students in the Touchstones circle.
We at Touchstones are honored to have had so many friends join us in the park for our end of summer fundraiser and look forward to seeing you at our next event! Thank you again for helping to bring Touchstones to new educators and students this school year!