Summer Writing Workshop
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
The halls are alive … with the sound of writers
The chatter subsided. Middle and high schoolers began to line up beside a stage. One by one, they were called up to the podium to share their work, and these young authors made quite an impression on me—they were passionate about writing, and they were up there belting it out like pros. 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 reflects on her participation over a decade ago in a Western Massachusetts Writing Project Youth Writing Workshop. A middle school student at the time, she took such inspiration from that one workshop that she is now a high school writing teacher.
Thanks to a successful UMass MinuteFund campaign that raised $4,000 in December and January, WMWP will host another writing workshop on March 15, 2016 that aims to do for today’s youths what that earlier program did for Nikki and others like her. The 2016 Youth Writing Adventure will bring about 150 middle school students and 15 teachers to Bartlett Hall for a day of writing in multiple genres outside of standardized test-prep writing. The workshop and its culminating publication, a digital and print anthology of student work begun on campus, is designed to encourage the participants to see themselves as writers and inspire them to explore their writing voices.
Spending time on a university campus during the tween and teen years can help young people imagine themselves as college students and strive to make it happen. Here’s Nikki again:
That day, when the 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 the one Nikki attended. The MinuteFund campaign has allowed WMWP to revive the tradition, and we hope to find other ways to sustain it in the future.
Here’s the coda to 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 see 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 youth writing program, I would have been oblivious to avenues before me.