An Epic Change: Creating Representation in Greek Mythology

Alvarez Spark Innovation Award recipient Jaclyn Maraldo will soon begin working on a book project for Nyansa Classical Community. The book will be made up of poems and stories written by the children in the program, and inspired by Homer’s classic, the Iliad. The book’s sales will help the program become more self-sustaining. Jaclyn is a PhD student studying and teaching French.

My journey with Nyansa started a year ago when the program was looking for an intern to help take on some of the site directing responsibilities. I met Dr. Angel Parham from Loyola University and she explained that by using a classical education curriculum, the students in her after-school program would receive a supplement to what they learned in school, such as Latin, Bible study and an introduction to the Greek gods and goddesses, as well as Homer’s classic epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. The ages of the children vary from about 7-11, and they are all from underprivileged households in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood. I had never worked with kids before but I was very excited to see this program in action.

Last year I was able to observe the volunteers from Loyola as they taught the children about Greek gods and goddesses and their virtues. Each one was re-imagined as African or African American so that the kids would be able to better identify with the mythological figures.

Some of the volunteers had been with the program for a few years and it was incredible to watch how they bonded with the students. They worked with them one-one-one to write haikus about the gods and goddesses that were featured in a poem booklet with the accompanying images. I can only imagine how touched the children and their families were to have a tangible representation of their accomplishments.


This year I have taken on more responsibilities as I oversee the implementation of the Iliad lessons, which consist of reading the chapters as a group, brainstorming and discussing the key events and characters, and working with the children one-on-one to draft poems or short stories about the Iliad in their own words. My work with the program has truly opened my eyes to the challenges and expenses that this non-profit faces. In order to provide a safe space with meals for the children to learn in, the director of the program must decide how to transport the children, how to pay the rent of the classroom space, where to get the meals from, what to do if there are not enough volunteers, etc. I am so thankful for the Alvarez Spark Innovation grant because now we will be able to pay the same graphic designer who created the African and African Americanized images of the gods and goddesses last year to design the images for the new book project based on the Iliad. This book project will not only be vital to the children’s learning and interpretation of the epic poem, but proceeds of the book’s profits will help fund Nyansa, which will help the program not have to rely as much on external funding. Thank you, Taylor Center for giving us this chance and stay tuned to see the finished project!

For more information about the program, please visit