Living Literature

I fell in love with Ireland when I was a little girl. I’ll admit that in the mid ‘70s I did some heavy flirting with Scotland, during my Bay City Rollers craze, but as I transitioned out of that “tweener” stage, Ireland once again took firm control of my heart.

I think my love affair with Ireland stems from my Granny Bradford. Her maiden name was Sullivan, and while she never talked directly about her Irish heritage, she did talk a lot about family. Granny was proud to be a Sullivan, and in keeping with Irish and Sullivan family tradition, she was a storyteller. I soaked up all of her stories about my dad’s childhood, Granny’s own upbringing by her grandfather and spinster aunt, and general tales of the family and the small town in which they lived. A naturally curious child, I wanted to know more – more about the family, more about our ancestry, more about the place we originally called home. I started with the World Book entries on Ireland, then proceeded to check out and read every book on the country that our small town library possessed. Tales of the Tuatha de Danann, Finn McCool and Cucuhlain soon followed and were quickly joined by the works of Swift, Yeats, and Wilde.

I have been fortunate to take my personal love of Ireland and fuse it with my career. As a high school English teacher, not only do I work with amazing young people; I am afforded the opportunity to teach the literature I love. Don’t get me wrong. William Shakespeare occupies a special chamber of my heart, as does John Steinbeck. But, in the spring when we read Joyce, Wilde, Swift, and Heaney, William and John are relegated to a downstairs corner and Ireland holds dominion.

Literature does not merely comprise great stories for entertainment; its pages hold a culture's beliefs and values, its triumphs and trials. We truly understand literature when we can live it -- when we can place ourselves in the characters' surroundings and can "see" the story through their eyes. This July, I have the opportunity to travel to Dublin, Ireland, to study the works of Yeats and Wilde and Joyce, in the halls of Trinity College—an opportunity to step into their world and bring part of it back into my classroom, and at the same time feed my own soul.

The total cost for this teacher seminar, including transportation, room, and board, is about $4100. I will be able to cover about two-thirds of the expense myself. Upon acceptance into the program, I was granted a $1200 Exceptional Teacher scholarship to cover half of the cost of tuition. In June, I will spend a week working as an AP reader, which will give me another $1400-$1500 (depending on tax withholdings). That leaves me about $1500 short of my goal.  

Because of my husband’s numerous surgeries over the past four years, our family’s savings have been decimated, so I’m trying to be creative in coming up with the remaining funds. I could get a job over the summer to make up the difference, but the trip must be paid for by June 1, and school doesn’t end until June 12 (and, I’m supposed to be in St. Louis June 10 for the AP reading). GoFundMe is a very humbling last resort. I know that not everyone is in a position to give, but for those of you who can, even a small donation of $5 toward helping me achieve my dream is greatly appreciated.   

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Eireann go Brach!

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Organizer

Kelly Stollings 
Organizer
Lenoir, NC
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