It’s rare, if not completely unheard of, to hear a recent college graduate speak about the social responsibility that compels him to reach the community at-large as well as the individual spirit.
And quite possibly, it’s even more unique to hear this from a young poet, one who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business coupled with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.
And so, I introduce you to a good friend of mine, Cortney Charleston, a man who embodies a beautiful truth: philanthropic and volunteer work should not be solely reserved for more glamorous and older generations.
I asked Cortney to detail his personal artistic journey that brought him to this understanding, and how his two years of service spent hosting poetry workshops at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC) have affected him and can indirectly, I hope, change our own personal beliefs about service.
Victoria: From looking at your educational background, it’s interesting that during your college career you became a poet. Could you explain that journey and how you came to pursue poetry?
Cortney: I suppose having a business degree and an interest in poetry would surprise most people (not to mention the fact I did not take an English course during my entire tenure at Penn), but for me, it was a very natural progression.
During my Freshman Year, I was going through a tumultuous time. I was struggling to find my niche on campus, I was lonely, romantically frustrated, and my family life began to deteriorate. My grades dipped and my extracurricular involvements were not giving me the escape I needed. I needed a way to work through my trials.
Poetry was not initially a consideration. I happened upon it by chance. A friend of mine was visiting Penn in the spring semester, trying to decide between coming there or going to Stanford. I decided to show him around and take him to [see a spoken word performance on campus by] the Excelano Project. I had not seen the group at that time; I had only heard rumblings around campus. Quite frankly, I walked in there and was blown away. It was at that moment I thought poetry might be the outlet I needed. Read the rest of this entry »