CHADRON – Poetry by two Chadron State College Social Work majors, Jeff Mugongo and Renee Spotted Thunder, and Associate Professor of Social Work Rich Kenney was published in March, recognized nationally as Social Work Month.
Mugongo’s poem, “I Come From A Long Way,” was published online in “The New Social Worker.” Spotted Thunder’s poem, “What Happened to Me,” was published in the “University of Iowa National Poetry Contest for Social Workers.” Kenney placed first in the practitioner category of a reverse poem contest sponsored by the Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work with “Perspectives.”
Mugongo wrote his poem as an assignment related to discussion topics in one of Kenney’s classes.
“I had to use my own personal experience and I created it as a poem. So, [Kenney] was interested in my poem and he contacted the publisher and mine was published. This is my first poem and publication. I have a lot of interesting ideas on writing more poems and right now I am in a process of writing a book,” Mugongo said.
When Mugongo performed his poem at the International Club’s annual dinner March 24, he prefaced the recitation by sharing difficult times in his Rwandan childhood when he was responsible for a herd of 41 goats and when his neighbors killed his pet monkey with a club.
Mugongo moved to the U.S in 2010 with his mother and siblings, but some family members still live in Rwanda. He discovered CSC as in high school student in Denver at a college fair.
“It wasn’t too far from home and was affordable and small,” said Mugongo,
Spotted Thunder, who recently moved to Nebraska from California, said although she has been writing for decades this accomplishment is especially meaningful.
“Having my piece published gives me a sense that I still have it. I feel that I am still a capable writer and that what I compose has value, that others are interested in reading my work. I want to be an example to for my children, grandchildren, family and others. I want them to see that it is never too late to pursue dreams and goals. Take a risk, because, nothing changes if nothing changes,” Spotted Thunder said.
She expressed her appreciation for Kenney’s creative writing assignments.
“It allows for us to convey our thoughts in a different manner,” said Spotted Thunder, who has been a foster parent, group home worker, substance abuse counselor and homeless shelter manager. “Further, Mr. Kenney, also a writer, enjoyed my writing, so he encouraged me to submit the piece.”
She plans to pursue a master’s in Social Work after she graduates from CSC.
Kenney’s reverse poem focuses on diversity and how individuals view each other and is published on “The New Social Worker” website. A reverse poem has one meaning when read from top to bottom and another meaning when read from bottom to top. His poetry and prose has been published in several journals since he joined the CSC faculty.
“What Happened to Me”
By Renee Spotted Thunder
A pink slip, a divorce decree, throw in a little PTSD,
I am the woman who now lives in poverty, self-medication, addiction,
Dark alleys and doorways, living in the back of a Chevrolet
A vicious cycle, a catch-22, no illusions of grandeur,
No more dreams, no money, no job, I am a survivor
I just want a place to lay my weary body and to feel safe, I am
The person living on the streets, what happened to me, what happened to me.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator