We stumble through adolescence,
picking and choosing which memories
to hold onto, and which to scrape between
the built-in traction beneath our boots
as we climb the water tower.
By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
Cymelle Edwards has metaphorically ascended the water tower, along with College of Humanities and Social Sciences students who celebrated winter commencement Friday afternoon at Grand Canyon University Arena.
The excerpt from her poem alludes to their journey while providing evidence of the phenomenal writing by Edwards, who will emerge as “a voice for her generation,’’ according to Dr. Diane Goodman, a GCU associate professor and author of three short story collections who guided Edwards from insecure writer to published author embarking on a prestigious Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.
Along Lopes Way, Edwards made a significant impact upon those around her while graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English with an Emphasis in Professional Writing and gaining induction into the GCU chapter of the International English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta.
“Cymelle is, in a word, extraordinary,’’ Goodman said. “When I met her, she was a shy, quiet young woman with a lot of raw poetic talent; since then, she has evolved into an exceptional, sophisticated writer whose work reveals an intuitive understanding of human nature and how to translate that into beautiful, lyrical, rich and profound poetry.
"Cymelle is on her way to being a poet of note — she has already published several poems in important journals — and I am confident that when she completes her MFA, she will emerge as a voice for her generation.’’
Gently, Goodman helped Edwards mine the writer within.
“I was going for education because I didn’t have faith in my writing,’’ Edwards said. “I said to myself, ‘I can be a teacher; my mom was a teacher.’ I knew that I could follow in her footsteps. But Dr. Goodman made it possible. She believed in my writing without pushing me. She wanted me to come to that decision on my own. Once I did, she completely took me under her wing. She knows the right questions to ask. She knows what I mean and helps me not to be so obscure.’’
Assistant professors Dr. Andrea Alden and Brian Raftery also helped Edwards develop. Outside the classroom, she attended Write On! workshops and Friends of the Pen meetings. Before rising to vice president, she developed friendships with like-minded club members.
“It was where I could express my love of reading and writing and classic writers and poets,’’ she said.
Moreover, she gained real world experience in two internships: seeking donors for Free Arts, a literacy organization that works with disadvantaged children, and campaigning for the CHSS dean, Dr. Sherman Elliott, who ran for and lost the Maricopa Community College District 3 election.
“He was a nonpartisan candidate, so what does it look like when you are reaching out to all types of people?’’ Edwards asked rhetorically. “That was interesting and humbling; I learned a lot. I had to tell people what Dr. Elliott stood for, so I learned about his love for community colleges and how he really wants to change things for the benefit of the students, employees and faculty.’’
The inquisitive nature Edwards brought to the campaign is part of her DNA.
“School was always my favorite thing to do,’’ Edwards said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself in the summer except read.’’
The early influencers of what she calls Team Cymelle traveled from her Casa Grande hometown to celebrate with her on Friday: her mom, Cynthia, her dad, James, sister, Cynetria, and grandparents Betty and Clarence Edwards.
“Of course, I want the world to come and be part of this awesome graduation day,’’ she said. “But it makes it special when you have only a limited number of tickets. Those people who do get to come, they know they had a role in your life in some way, shape or form.’’
God’s role is unwavering as well.
"Ideas about my faith and God are often weaved into my poems in small, organic ways,'' Edwards said. "It’s a part of who I am, so it inevitably makes an appearance in my work. I give glory, honor and praise to God.''
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].