12 Stories of Homecoming: Jesaka Long

Editor’s Note: Earlier in June, Lighthouse finally moved into our exciting new home. The 12 Stories of Homecoming is a series of stories written about creatives from all walks of Lighthouse that have made us who we are today. This interview and story were conducted and written by our summer intern, Eva! 

Jesaka Long knows all about unexpected opportunities. From an offer to substitute teach a Lighthouse Young Writers class to teaching ever since they could tell you all about the importance of those opportunities. Long started as a student here and has been teaching for eleven years since then.

Long found Lighthouse when they first moved to Denver after a quick Google search, looking for writing classes and a community. They began as a student who then agreed to teach a class as a substitute for one of their friends. They found their love for teaching at that moment. 

Now, Jesaka teaches for The Young Authors Collective, which they have grown into two cohorts, one that meets in person at Lighthouse and one that meets online via Zoom. The Young Authors Collective is an inclusive community where young writers, ages 14 -18, create lasting relationships, improve their writing skills, and experiment with new genres. In the fall, Jesaka is adding The Young Authors Collective - Rainbow for teen writers who identify as LGBTQIAP+ or as an ally. They say their favorite part of teaching and interacting with the kids is seeing how they're smarter than people give them credit for. Jesaka shared, “They ask hard questions, about life, the state of politics, the earth, and environment.” 

Long’s passion for writing is evident beyond what they do for young writers as well. With their own writing, they explored screenwriting, then novel writing, specifically young adult. Long said, “I teach for the youth, so why not write for them too?” 

When asked about the new building, Long shared, “Kids are excited to discover all the unique writing nooks.” The new young writer's room, with carpet picked out by the current Young Authors Collective cohort, offers a new setting that feels like their own. The technology, in particular, was Long’s focus when it came to how Lighthouse is different when it comes to teaching. 

One of Long’s favorite readings they attended and read their work at was for a community engagement program, and they said, “There was magic in the room that night. Something about the atmosphere of Lighthouse stuck with me as welcoming, and that's what makes this place unique.” They also said they fell in love with other instructors' writing and felt “lit up” by Lighthouse and its community. 

Long says they have “auntie energy,” being a supportive and welcoming hand for anyone who reaches out. One rule for their classes is humor, jokes, and lighthearted nature are a must, or as they like to call it, “playful pushback.” Their students have picked up on this too. Long’s story of asking the students to share two sentences of their writing to build confidence fledged into a whole t-shirt and Instagram account because of their humor. 

Long has plenty of experience with uncertainty, but taking that chance to substitute all those years ago expanded their career and personal writing journey and, of course, brought hundreds more laughs along the way. 

Writers are always looking for different ways to get inspired; sometimes, that means cleansing your palate and wiping the slate. In search of that, they said Lighthouse allowed them to evolve into who they are today, career-wise and personally.


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