Wordcrafters receives $8,000 grant to expand writing residencies for marginalized communities
The Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation recently awarded Wordcrafters in Eugene, a non-profit writing organization, $8,000 to expand their Writers in Schools (WITS) residency program.
The Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation was established in 1997, and serves as an independent philanthropy organization representing the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians. They have given more than $20 million to non-profit organizations in Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Lane counties since their organization’s inception.
Wordcrafters will use the grant to fund WITS residencies in three different schools and programs: Kalapuya High School, whose student population is composed of youth from low-income communities; Elmira High School, which is in a rural community; and the Phoenix Treatment Program, which serves incarcerated youth. In total, this grant will allow Wordcrafters to provide writing residencies which will serve more than 240 students.
WITS residencies are based on methodology from the WITS Alliance, which has been rigorously tested and tweaked since its beginning in 1983. The WITS methodology says public school environments benefit from intensive literary arts instruction, giving students of all backgrounds the chance to hone their unique communication and critical thinking skills. This provides them with powerful tools in adulthood that are relevant in whatever life path they choose to pursue, writing related or not.
In Wordcrafters’ WITS residencies, a professional writer is paired with an instructor from each of the programs at Kalapuya High School, Elmira High School, and the Phoenix Treatment Program.
Students work with the professional writer on developing their own spoken word poetry pieces, and participate in group work and performances culminating in a class chapbook, poetry reading, or art project.
These residencies are unique in that they allow students from underserved communities to actively participate in the entire creative writing process, from first drafts to final revisions, with the help and support of a professional writer.
The focus of these residencies is largely on spoken word pieces, which is the mode of writing Wordcrafters has found at-risk students most respond to. Spoken word poetry requires a person to get in touch with their emotions, past and present experiences, and develop a personal style that is in line with their identity and the message they want to convey to an audience, both through their words and through body language, tone, rhythm, and volume dynamics. It’s a medium that takes things that can be difficult to talk about in static, concrete terms and allows a person to make them into whatever they want to be through metaphor, imagery, and performance. This makes spoken word an ideal and empowering mode of expression for students who are often labeled “at-risk.”
This grant from Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation doesn’t just provide funding for writing instruction for vulnerable youth. It gives them access to learning about a new avenue for self-expression, through which they can develop confident voices and realize that what they have to say matters, and they can make people listen through their art.