Author, Poet Elizabeth Acevedo Connects With Students During Reading, Q&A For Grum Project Visit


Williston students were treated to a special assembly on Friday, May 3, when Elizabeth Acevedo, a New York Times best-selling author and the Young People’s Poet Laureate, gave a reading and sat for a question-and-answer segment. Acevedo, who writes teen and adult novels, came to campus as part of our Grum Project Visiting Artist series.

Acevedo’s assembly kept the student body captivated from start to finish. She opened with several readings of her work, including passages from her award-winning debut book, The Poet X, which was taught in Williston classrooms this year.

“It’s really, really cool [that my book is being taught],” Acevedo said in an interview before the assembly. “As someone who was a teacher, I know how hard I worked to find texts that had a lot of literary merit, but also were engaging—books that young people would want to talk about and that would offer enough fodder for them to connect to or to push back against.”

After the reading, Acevedo sat for a question-and-answer segment moderated by Soleil Richardson ’24. Acevedo dove into subjects including how she finds inspiration for writing, the differences between poetry and prose, and who her favorite hip-hop artist is.

To close the assembly, three Williston Students—Zah Ewen ’24, Parker Brown ’25, and Alia Ghaoui ’27 each read a piece of their own poetry. The trio were selected after an open call for a poetry contest. Acevedo noted how special it was that she got to both read and be read to during the assembly.

“It’s exciting to have a poet you’ve read also listening to your work,” she said. “It’s an exchange, which I think feels really unique and important.”

Prior to the assembly, Acevedo stopped in to an AP Literature class to answer questions about her book and also signed the students’ copies of her book. As a writer whose books target teens, Acevedo said coming to a school or campus helps her keep connected to the people she’s writing for.

“Because I write for young people, it feels really important to me that I speak with them,” she said. “There’s so much about their thought process and what they feel, how they feel, and the kinds of questions they ask about a text that informs me about how they’re engaging with the world.”

The Grum Project Visiting Artist series is funded by the generosity of a school alumna. While the term “artist” naturally lends itself to the visual and performing arts, Department Chair Natania Hume said that each year, she collaborates with a different department on campus “to touch as many students as possible and not just the self-identified ‘arts’ students,” she said. “Clearly, this year’s partner was the English department, so I asked folks in the English Department for suggestions. Sarah Sawyer suggested Elizabeth Acevedo, who is a performing artist as well as a poet. The whole school read her book, so every student was engaged in her work even before she arrived! Acevedo’s work has a lot of overlap with theater, music, and lyrics so I thought she would be a great fit—and she was!”