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Local poet Dave Caserio brainstormed with seven members of his class Wednesday at Tumbleweed.

The topics of the class are open-ended thought experiments. This week, the fourth of 12 in the program, focused on names.

"Names can be changed," Caserio said, considering the idea of monikers. "We change them on our own."

The class members then went into their notebooks to write based on the day's research and thoughts. It was all part of a new class at the downtown Billings nonprofit, which serves young people who are runaways, homeless and at-risk.

Arts Without Boundaries

Poet Dave Caserio of Arts Without Boundaries works with Shaynee Littlelight at Tumbleweed on Wednesday.

In May, Tumbleweed opened its life skills program during the day to complement its nighttime services. As part of that, the organization partnered with Arts Without Boundaries, an arts outreach organization, on the writing program.

Caserio signed on as the instructor, and the inaugural class took off. Georgia Cady, Tumbleweed drop-in center and human trafficking program director, said the writing class has created a buzz among the youths. More are expected to sign up.

Cory Brooks, a 24-year-old member of the class, said that he'd already filled a notebook with writings from the class. He's been writing lyrics and poems on his own for a while, so the class was a natural fit.

The creative outlet was more than a hobby.

"Hopefully I get somewhere with it," he said.

Across the table, 21-year-old Isaiah Little Light was contemplating the research on his own name. He found traits associated with historical Isaiahs that fit his own life.

"It's a biblical name," he said. "It said a lot about me, actually."

The 12-week course will culminate with readings by the students. But the process is the rewarding part, Caserio said. All the students have stories and insights.

He said that his goal isn't to run through a technical writing course but to offer a platform for expression. Getting over the first case of writer's block sows confidence.

Tumbleweed Executive Director Erika Willis said that those values, like expression, are useful tools for what those at Tumbleweed might be dealing with.

"They all have a story," she said. "And healing can happen in a lot of ways."


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.