WMWP Youth Writing Workshop
The chatter subsided. Middle and high schoolers began to line up beside a stage. One by one, and after a brief introduction, they were called up to the podium to share their work, and while I do not remember what those students wrote, these young authors made quite an impression on me—they were passionate about writing, and they were up there belting it out like pros. Poetry, memoir, short story, essay, and nearly every genre my then sixth-grade self could conceive of was represented. After I got over these students’ stage presence and strength of delivery, there were just words. And words I knew I could write; they were the reason I was here.
In this passage, Nikki Crosby remembers her participation in a Western Massachusetts Writing Project Youth Writing Program while in middle school and reflects on the impact it had on her life and career. She is now a middle school teacher. (You can read Nikki's full story by clicking here.)
This fundraising campaign aims to do for other area youths what that earlier WMWP program and others like it did for Nikki and hundreds of other students in Western Massachusetts.
The 2016 Western Massachusetts Writing Project Youth Writing Workshop will bring up to 200 middle school students and 10 teachers to the UMass campus in March for a day of multi-genre writing and thinking outside of the box of standardized test-prep writing. The workshop day and its culminating publication, a digital and print anthology of student work begun on campus, will empower the participants to see themselves as writers and inspire them to explore their writing voices.
The workshop day will include a talk by a local writer, two rounds of workshops led by area teachers, lunch in the Student Union, and a final celebration at which students will share their work with their peers. The program will be led by teacher-consultants from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, which is a professional development program for K-16 teachers supported by the UMass Department of English and College of Humanities and Fine Arts. WMWP teachers will be assisted by tutors from the UMass Writing Center.
Youth writing programs offer teachers and students opportunities for dynamic exploration and growth in writing without the looming pressure of test scores. Simply put, youth writing programs can
- diversify students' writing skills
- encourage students to explore new creative writing avenues
- be geared towards students’ interests
- foster motivation and enjoyment for writing as a craft
- inspire new ideas to bring to the classroom
- create authentic audiences and opportunities for feedback
- broaden and connect teaching and learning communities
- strengthen relationships among teachers, students, and parents
This project aims to cultivate community among schools, families, teachers, and students while focusing on the improvement and enjoyment of writing. Creative, exploratory, and engaging literacy experiences and products collaboratively created by students, teachers, and families outside of the classroom can create connections that positively impact education.
Another benefit is that spending time on a university campus during the "tween" years can encourage young people who might not otherwise see college in their futures to imagine themselves as college students and strive to make it happen. Here's Nikki again:
That day, when the Western Massachusetts Writing Project award ceremony commenced, I was a pretty good writer—for a country girl. Upon conclusion, I was a good writer period, and I returned home with a deep sense of empowerment. The world of academia was not that hostile, elitist, and impossibly difficult to penetrate place I imagined it to be. I had been there.
Due to reductions in federal and state funding, WMWP has been unable in recent years to offer youth writing programs like that Nikki attended. With your donation we will
- Offer professional development for the program teachers
- Create interactive workshop sessions and materials
- Host up to 200 students from multiple schools, especially underserved urban and rural public schools
- Guide students in their exploration and growth in multiple genres
- Provide a full day college campus experience—including lunch—for the students
- Follow up with teachers after the workshop to receive final drafts for publication
- Design a multi-genre publication of students' writing
- Distribute the publication to students and donors
Thank you for considering a gift to this project--we know that there are many worthwhile causes that ask for support at this time of year. We wish you and yours a happy holiday season.
Here's a final thought from Nikki's story:
I am now a high school English teacher after taking the path of greatest resistance, becoming the college educated person that I was never raised to be. I chose this path to change the minds of talented students who fashion themselves as rural, or poor, or minority, or otherwise an “other,” and, therefore, unfit to hold the keys to the educational kingdom. I want for them what WMWP did for me. Without the WMWP [youth writing program], I would have been oblivious to avenues before me.