Scotus Central Catholic graduate Cassie Kouma said her faith was strengthened during her freshman year of college, which made her wonder how she was living her faith.
The University of Nebraska Kearney student said that thought led her to seek out Christian martyrs “who lived and died for their faith.”
This search resulted in Kouma writing a poem—in the style of Emily Dickinson—describing the life of St. Perpetua for an assignment in her English class.
His teacher, Marguerite Tassi – who was impressed by Kouma’s poem – told the Scot graduate about an undergraduate university research fellowship scheme. The fellowship – which begins next fall – allows Kouma to research more Christian martyrs and write poetry.
“I always had in mind that I wanted to write poems about saints,” said Kouma, a 2021 Scotus graduate. “I’ve always loved writing poems about religious subjects.”
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Kouma also credited Tassi with sponsoring and mentoring his project.
Tassi said she was moved by Kouma’s work after asking her class to do a creative imitation of a poem she enjoyed. Kouma chose “Because I Couldn’t Stop for Death” by Dickinson.
“It was a fabulous poem. She did a fabulous job,” Tassi said. “I think it lit a fire under her.”
Kouma said his inspiration began with St. Perpetua – who was told by his father to renounce his faith before his death. Perpetua died alongside four others in Carthage, North Africa, in the year 203. Her execution took place on the floor of an amphitheater for all to see.
Kouma added that she has always been inspired by the saints and what goes through their minds when they face death and “knowing that they will see God”.
Thanks to the scholarship, she will take 10 martyrs and write about what this experience may have been like for them.
“It’s a really exciting idea,” Tassi said. “…The project is partly research-based and partly creative writing. It really evolved naturally through the readings we had in class and her connection with Emily Dickinson.
Tassi said she was happy to have taught Kouma, adding that she is the kind of student teachers like to have in their classroom.
Like her faith, Kouma has been interested in poetry for some time. She entered poetry contests in high school before writing more in college.
Kouma – who is currently studying secondary English education at UNK – said she hopes to become a high school English teacher.
“I would like to teach in a Catholic school so that I can incorporate the aspect of faith there as well,” Kouma said, adding that she would also like to emphasize poetry in her class.
She added that she is looking forward to her scholarship.
“I am truly grateful to be able to do such a faith-based project in a secular university,” Kouma said. “I’m really grateful for the foundations that were found in my faith with my family, going to Scot and how that was able to grow in college.”
Andrew Kiser is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Contact him by email at [email protected]