Tuesday, June 11, 2013

MECA Made a Difference in Poet Laureate's Life

The very first time I heard Gwendolyn Zepeda read was at MECA Houston (Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts) in Houston's old Sixth Ward. She was wearing a wonderfully tacky gown at her "Quinceañera I was Too Poor to Have" event where she read some of her essays about her experiences growing up in that same neighborhood. It was amazing and I fell in love with her as a writer.

Photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Zepeda and Photo by Lawrence P. Lander

Gwendolyn Zepeda was announced as Houston's first Poet Laureate by Mayor Annise Parker in April of this year. She will serve a two year term 2013-2015. She is a published author of chap books, novels, and children's books, including Houston, We Have a Problema, Lonestar, Better with You Here, Growing up with Tamales, Sunflowers, and I Kick the Ball.

One of the coolest things about Gwendolyn Zepeda is that she's a Houstonian and grew up attending MECA and she believes this shaped who she is today.

"I was there *all the time*, after school and throughout each summer, and there were so many experiences that affected all aspects of my life -- artistic, academic, and social," she said.

When I asked her about her greatest experience at MECA Gwen said that the important experiences she had were really "cumulative," and she goes on to list some specifics.

"MECA partnered with Discover Dance to provide ballet classes for several years, and those classes fixed my knocked knees and bad posture, and improved my confidence for the rest of my life."

One specific experience that she remembers fondly was the time they went to Baybrook Mall when she was around 16 and performed songs from Leader of the Pack as part of a summer show. She said, "afterwards a little girl of about 9 came up to me and told me that she wanted to be like me when I got older."

She goes on to say, "Doing the performances taught me public speaking and improvisational skills. The dance and voice classes that prepared me for the performances taught me discipline and the value of constant growth. Watching our teachers and program directors taught me project management skills. Alice Valdez and her employees and her donors put together events that I never would've imagined could happen in our neighborhood."

It's experiences like this that are great examples of how great MECA's work is in the Houston community and why Houstonians should support this great organization. Funding for this organization will help pay for these great programs that make a difference in a young child's life.

 It's no wonder they were one of the five organizations chosen by P&G's Orgullosa Project. Facebook followers can vote for one of the organizations and Orgullosa will donate to these organizations based on their ranking in the votes. So far MECA is in third place and it needs our votes to move up in the ranking. If you haven't seen their Facbook page go "Like It" and then vote for MECA Houston.

Disclaimer: I am a compensated endorser for the P&G Orgullosa Project.

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