Nurturing Young Writers
In Western Michigan,public television station WGVU stimulated a partnership to connect at-risk middle-school students with poets, writers, illustrators, and musicians.
“The schools are struggling here,” says WGVU Marketing Coordinator Emily Maurin. “Closings, budget cuts - the arts were the first to go.”
Looking for ways to expose youth to the arts and encourage creative writing, WGVU partnered with LOOP, a city-wide after-school program. LOOP exposes at-risk, urban middle-schoolers to enrichment like cooking classes or symphony visits. Together, LOOP and the station created Write. Create. You. to offer creative writing workshops in each Grand Rapids public middle school.
Maurin wooed, persuaded, and even cold-called local artists with an invitation to teach the workshops. Each workshop is unique and authors invite students to “let their stories out.”
When the Kalamazoo Poetry Slam Master introduced youth to the world of performance poetry, middle-schoolers discovered that Rap was really poetry, and that art – and artists – were cool.
Local authors, performers, and other writing professionals teach everything from Poetry Slam to character development to comic book development. Writer-musician Ryan Hipp used graphic stories to draw students into writing.
“I used comic panels without dialogue… and dialogue without illustration,” Hipp said. “The kids created the story. Their stories were funny and creative and amazing. They were learning writing skills and didn’t even know it.”
Although WGVU initiated Write. Create. You., their partners quickly took ownership of the project.
“Instructors loved it. The station could never have created such an interactive learning process alone,” Maurin said.
Local businesses donated $15,000 in grant funding to continue the program and offer more workshops. Instructors needed no persuasion to sign on again.
Hipp said, “I remember a group of kids passing their work around like a little think tank. One of the kids turned and said, ‘You’re gonna be here next week, right?’ Wow. This is worth doing and WGVU made it possible.”