College provided Dan the freedom to explore his creative interests in a way he had never been comfortable or able to do in high school. He was incredibly grateful for the many opportunities he had already encountered as a student at Emerson and looked forward to continuing to expand his world view through the further pursuit of the arts, education, and travel. Shortly after Dan’s passing, Professor Mary Kovaleski Byrnes reached out to share some of the writing Dan had completed for her course in the Spring of 2019. While Professor Byrne’s class focused on research, she had incorporated personal essay writing into the course reasoning that “college is a time of discovery and learning, and that writing can be a helpful tool in navigating this”.
Dan would frequently call home and share his “new” experiences from Emerson. He loved meeting people who were passionate about their interests in film, journalism, communication, music, theater, or marketing. As we began to craft the mission of his foundation, we knew we had to somehow bring the amazing experience he was having at college to other young people. We discussed bringing writers, musicians, and artists to local schools to workshop their craft and hopefully reach students in ways their regular classes were unable to do. I shared my thoughts with Professor Byrnes and she told me about the EmersonWRITES program.
I was honored to attend the 10th Annual Showcase for EmersonWRITES this past Sunday, February 23rd. The program provides high-school students from the Boston Area the opportunity to study writing with Emerson MFA candidates and professors of writing every Saturday for 14 weeks. Courses are offered in non-fiction and artifacts, creative writing, poetry, and fiction writing. An anthology of student work is published each year. I was completely blown away by the quality and passion in their writing. I was inspired by the students and feel even more strongly that these types of opportunities need to be shared with a wider community of high-school students.
A long-range goal of the Daniel J. Hollis Foundation is to bring these types of learning experiences to high school students across the state. I am excited to begin this work and look forward to expanding it to include visual artists, musicians, and other types of creative artists. We hope to inspire others to explore their own creative pursuits as Dan was emboldened to do during his time at Emerson College.