Classroom Snapshot: Student Writing, Critical Thinking on Display at Keithley’s Stories Club

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Ask a sixth grader to reflect about what the American Dream means, and you’ll get varied, insightful, carefully considered answers.

“The opportunity to pursue the American Dream is available to everyone, however, some people have more advantages than others due to their race or gender. This is an inequality factor in the ability to achieve the American Dream.”

“The American Dream is just a dream. Mostly likely a dream that will never come true. The racism and discrimination is so high today that equality shouldn’t even be a word.”

Two sixth grade students at Keithley Middle School in Parkland – John and Arianna – wrote these words and read them aloud during the monthly Student Stories Club that is facilitated by sixth grade social studies teacher Ryan Davenport. Each month over lunch, students sign up to read a piece they have written on a particular theme or listen to their peers.

“The format and nature of it is totally due to students,” Davenport said. Students write and research their pieces outside of school time. Davenport and other teachers are available to consult with students if they want feedback or support. “It’s all student initiative,” he said.

The club got started nearly three years ago when a student approached Davenport about a piece she wanted to read in class immediately after the 2016 presidential election. After reading the piece and talking with his mentor, Davenport decided to create a space where students could choose to participate in reading their written work and listening to peers.

The event was a success. Students began asking when the next meeting would happen, and Student Stories Club was launched. “It was very organic,” Davenport said. It is open to all sixth grade students at the school who sign up to participate.

It offers a space other than the classroom for students to shine, Davenport said. Students with social or behavioral challenges can be poets and leaders when they read their work during the Club. And students who are afraid of public speaking can practice in a supportive, respectful environment.

“It’s a different setting that works for them,” Davenport said.

Self-driven writing and research can open the doors to career possibilities, too. In a thank you note that a past Club participant wrote to Davenport, the student said that the Club experience was so impactful that she was considering journalism as a future job.

During the May meeting, students read pieces they had researched and written about the monthly theme – the American Dream. One student read a fictional piece about slavery, another read a poem, and others considered what the American Dream means to them. Answers ranged from equality of opportunity and whether that exists in the U.S., to the ability to live a comfortable life.

Some students were veterans of the Club, and others were reading their work for the first time. After each piece, the 25 or so students and five faculty – including the principal – in the room all clapped and cheered.

Three students offered to allow Ready Washington to publish their work. You can read their pieces below.

Thank you to Ryan Davenport, his students, and Keithley Middle School for allowing us to visit!

The American Dream, what is it? The American Dream is the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. Do you believe that statement is true? No matter who says that, where they say it, or how they say it, I will never believe that statement.

If the American Dream is alive why are discrimination and racism not dead? I once asked Ms. Bond, a teacher here at our school, what she thought of the American Dream, and she told me, “I do not believe in the American Dream. Would I like it to be true? Yes, but it is not because a straight white male has a lot more opportunities to achieve their goals than a Latino queer woman like me.” That statement is something that I hadn’t really thought about. CEOs of companies will discriminate on people because of their sexuality, race, and gender. If somebody’s life-long aspiration and goal is to go into that specific company and they end up not getting in because of stuff they can’t change, I don’t think that is really the ideal definition of equality of anything.

The American Dream is just a dream. Most likely a dream that will never come true. The racism and discrimination is so high today that equality shouldn’t even be a word.

The “American Dream.” Is it really an equal opportunity for all Americans? In reality, the American Dream is just an idea until true equality is achieved throughout America. Such things as racism, sexism, and discrimination against religion, which by the way are just a few obstacles many people face with pursuing the “American Dream.”

Oprah Winfrey is a great example of someone who faced has faced these obstacles. According to an article in, Oprah “is living proof that the American Dream is alive and well…she overcame poverty, parental neglect, sexual abuse, and racism to become one of the richest and most powerful women in the entertainment industry.” Even though Oprah has achieved the American Dream she had to face more obstacles than Elon Musk, for instance.

Elon Musk is also an example of someone who has achieved the American Dream, through less challenges, according to an article on The article states, “Elon Must was born in South Africa…he was bulled because of his interest and studies in science.” Now Elon lives in America enjoying his success as an entrepreneur in the space and technology industry.

It is evident that people of different races and genders face different challenges. Oprah faced racism and sexism, that Elon may not have experienced to the same degree. The opportunity to pursue the American Dream is available to everyone, however, some people have more advantages than others due to their race or gender. This is an inequality factor in the ability to achieve the American Dream.

America, the country of arguable greatness

A nation of high thrift
America is thy name
Come the immigrants, escaping
Dangers untamed
American, ever so seducing at first sight
These poor people are to learn
We as Americans don’t have a sense
of wrong from right

America is a land consisting of crime
violent want – wits, hatred, and grime
We have not changed
Despite the healing grace of time
Poverty is prevalent, as well as greed
Bigotry may slave you done
It all depends on your race, color, physique, or creed
Gender orientation, whom you choose to love
In my mind, perhaps not others, is as beautiful as a dove

I ask thou a question that surely
will leave you to think deep and to ponder
Is America your dream
Or a nightmare, late at night,
leaving you feeling confused and somber.