Editorial: Use Your Voice

Submitting to the Buchtelite had a huge impact on me – and it could have an impact on you too – submit to the 2023 Voice of the Student edition or join the paper.

By Emily Sesto, Opinion Editor

Emily Sesto (front row second from the left) with her Creative Contribution Award at the annual media banquet. (Photo of photo booth image by Julie Cajigas)

I write about my experiences as a sexual assault survivor.

I wrote my first poem in May of 2012, and I now have thousands of poems in my head and hundreds written down.

Until recently, had only shared my poetry online, anonymously. This year, I began sharing the poems on my public social media platforms. This was a big step for me.

You must understand that these are poems I never thought I would share with the world. Who would want to see such dark, sad words?

I figured it was too ugly to share; I have never been so wrong.

If you told me six months ago that I would have submitted my poetry for our school newspaper, performed my spoken word not once but twice, and won three awards, my jaw would have dropped to the floor.

I have never done anything like this.

At the end of March, I decided to take a risk and submit my poetry to The Buchtelite, with the intent of being able to say I took an opportunity.

I did not expect anything further. My poetry is dark and sad, and it was the only way I could use my voice as a sexual assault survivor. Despite that, I thought it was important for my voice to be heard, so others wouldn’t feel so alone.

For a long time, I thought I was (alone).

After submitting my work, I received positive feedback from the paper advisor and the editorial team. They worked with me to not only publish a single poem, but to create a full spread featuring my work in the Spring 2023 print edition.

That experience was staggering. I knew it was happening, but it didn’t really set in until I saw it with my own eyes. My words were laid in a display that took my breath away. I know my poetry is powerful, but I never truly felt powerful until this moment.

The paper advisor recommended that I submit my work to some additional places including the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences Celebration of Research and Creativity, and for the Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism.

Emily Sesto performs her spoken word poetry that criticizes #MeToo for not going far enough to support survivors. (Julie Cajigas)

Running with the confidence from having my work published, I went forward and submitted to both opportunities.

I have a fear of public speaking, and the BCAS Celebration of Research and Creativity was the first time I read my words in front of an audience. The initial thought of being so vulnerable in front of a room full of strangers was really intimidating, but once I got up there it felt natural and like I was meant to be up there.

There was something so powerful about reclaiming the power and control that had been taken away from me.

I received an award for the top spoken word poetry at the celebration.

Flash forward to the Auburn Awards, which still leaves me speechless.   

I felt more pressure presenting at the Auburn Awards symposium, because it was more of a formal event. Seven students were selected from a pool of 30 submissions to present.

I also felt increased pressure because I wanted my message to be heard far and wide.

I was intimidated as I began to share my w

ork, but it came naturally the more I spoke and the more I felt heard.

When the time came to announce winners, they said my name. It felt extremely shocking and almost like a dream.

I knew that my words were powerful to me, and meant something to me, but I didn’t realize how many people’s lives they might impact just by getting up there and sharing.

The seven students selected to present at the Auburn Symposium. Front Row (L-R) Emily Sesto, Madison Richards, Kimberly Barlock. Back row (L-R) Lennon Medvick, Mat Cruz, Alyssa Alexsonshk, Benjamin Kissinger. (Julie Cajigas)

I recommend finding the courage to share your words. You may experience what it feels like to be heard and understood.

There was one experience that I wasn’t expecting and that was being invited to the banquet for UA’s student media outlets. I received a beautiful glass award for outstanding creative contribution.

It was a humbling and inviting experience, and for once, I felt like I belonged somewhere.

If you take anything from my little story, let it be these two things:

First, if you are suffering or struggling, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and you are not alone.

Second, take the risk.

I’m happy to announce I have accepted the position of opinion editor with The Buchtelite for the 23-24 school year, and I urge you all to take the risk.

Share your creative work. Share your writing. Share your ideas.

Learn more about joining The Buchtelite here.

Thank you.