Poetry helps students embody their creative voice

Writers in the Schools artist in residence, Carter McKenzie teaches students poetry in a high school classroom setting

Poetry helps students embody their creative voice

What memories does your high school English class bring back for you?

If you were a student in Worcrafters’ Writers in The Schools residency program, you’re likely to recall learning about the emotions it’s possible to release onto the page through poetry. 

And what it feels like to see your words in print.

“I think more deeply about sounds and color when writing,” says one student. “I learned to feel more emotion and flow in my writing,” says another.

Over the course of several weeks, a WITS writer in residence explains the entire creative process, guiding students step by step. From brainstorming and early drafts, through revision, all the way to the publication of their poems in a student anthology. 

The program, funded entirely by grants and generous donors like you, touches the lives of hundreds of students each year at local low-income high schools. 

“She helped me become more confident as a writer, and changed how I think about poetry. She taught me that poetry is all about creativity and making it your own. She taught me ways to brainstorm ideas, come up with templates, and tell a story with poetry,” a student shares at his end of term assessment. 

At the end of each residency, when students are asked how working with a professional writer changed their approach to their own writing, this is what they say:

It opened my eyes on paper. Got me engaged.

She really boosted my confidence about my work.

Made me feel more comfortable writing about my feelings.

It made me realize I’m actually a good writer when I put my mind to it. 

I am a little more confident about speaking publicly and writing out my feelings and thoughts. 

It showed me how far writing can go beyond academics and the beauty of poems. 

Well now I write in my free time which I couldn’t say beforehand.

It showed me I know more than I think. 

I work on my own personal writing more and I can be more vulnerable with myself and others. It was an amazing experience to have.

“When we practice spoken word poetry, we practice letting ourselves be seen and heard,” says WITS residency teacher Jorah LaFleur. “Embodying a creative voice in front of others is inherently vulnerable, and has the potential to be transformative beyond the boundaries of the classroom.” 

“We work with at-risk students who have often had their voice marginalized. They’ve been disempowered by an educational experience that seems to happen to them,” says Kalapuya High School principal, Stefan Aumack. Through the WITS program, “their voice is empowered, and students leave feeling more proud and capable.”

Whether or not students go on to become writers in their everyday lives, what they learn–and keep using–is how to find their voice.

The schools we work with are  underfunded and don’t have the resources to fund these writing residencies. We need your support, to continue helping students be seen and heard, both on the page and in their lives.