A penchant for writing draws attention to GCAA student

“She is very shy, but she is a great writer.”

“She’s a poet and a singer.”

The statements could describe any girl you know. She might be a girl you pass in the hallways at school or she may sit next to you in class. She could be the girl who doesn’t seem to talk very much, but everyone who knows her likes her and wants to be her friend.

Melvina Harris is that girl. She is a sophomore at Grand Center Arts Academy, a Confluence Charter School. She’s been a GCAA student since seventh grade.Melvina Harris_GCAA 2013-14_small headshot Melvina II

She didn’t know anything about the school when she started, but her family, Barbara and Edward Crim, heard about GCAA. They thought it would be good for her, that it might fit her personality.

In seventh grade, she was a new student at a new school. She didn’t talk much to anyone, but she carried a red spiral notebook to write down her feelings. The notebook was her way of adjusting. “Whenever I write, it helps me feel better,” she said.

Fast forward to the present and Harris has explored new interests. Last year, she got involved in theater classes and had a chance to be a director. A few weeks ago, she auditioned for a play called ‘Split’ and has three separate roles as a waitress, a principal and a counselor. The production dates haven’t been set, she said, but she is looking forward to performing on stage.

Harris is intrigued by the chance “to play someone else, to be someone I’m not in real life. It’s a lot of fun to be someone else.”

Yes, theater is something she’s interested in, but her true spirit is in her writing. It’s the love of writing that has brought attention to her quiet and shy personality.

“I just like writing,” Harris said. “I like writing songs and stories, not just poems. I like to make up stories about different people.”

“I write because I have so much in my head. Each day, I’m learning something new in the United States.”

Harris arrived in St. Louis at the age of 7 as a refugee. Her mother, grandmother and siblings also live in St. Louis. She is very protective of her personal story and does not like to talk about her experience, but writing is a way to weave her life into stories. “If you listen closely to my writing, you’ll learn about me,” she said.

Harris doesn’t have a favorite author or poet. She keeps an open mind when she reads. In English class, a poem titled “Where I’m From” caught her attention. The details of the work made an impression. “You can see where the narrator is from,” she said, with a hint of understanding, like the author was talking to her.

When inspiration strikes, she writes. “I have a songbook that I write in,” said Harris. As she talked, she placed her hand on a stack of books and folders in her lap. Maybe it was a hint that the songbook is always with her.

“I never thought my story was interesting until I started talking to people about it,” said Harris.

But, she is really more impressed by the attention to her talent. “It’s pretty cool that people are interested in my writing.”

Although she is a few years away from high school graduation, Harris is looking to the future. She would “love to go to Webster University” to pursue music and directing.

Until then, she will focus on school, her theater classes, and of course, her writing.