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The Story of Wordcrafters, chapter 5

Chapter 5: Did you know students are a trapped audience? And you can make them write poetry?!

We pick up the Wordcrafters story in 2016 when we began our Writers in the Schools program at John Serbu Youth Services’ Phoenix detention program as well as underserved Lane County high schools. 

Then-WITS program coordinator Sallie Vandagrift, had volunteered at Serbu as an instructor and writing group facilitator, a deeply meaningful teaching experience.

“In addition to encouraging literacy and improved writing skills, these groups provided youth with an opportunity for healthy and constructive communication,” Sallie says. 

The Writers in the Schools residency program puts a professional writer in the classroom, once a week, for several weeks, leading students through each stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to finished piece. Writing that students create during the residency–often poetry–culminates in a chapbook and reading.

Here are excerpts of three Thurston High School students’ poems:

I want to draw a future I’ve never seen-

One where happiness flows like a river,

Reaching everyone around it as if

Crashing against the shore.

As time brushes forward for us,

What we choose to leave behind

Is a picture of our eyes from the hand

Of creativity.

I believe in the sun breaking above the

Horizon in the early morning. I believe

In the sound of sweet soft birds chirping and

My calm mother humming. 

I believe in the sick taste in my mouth

From a breakfast too early eaten.

I believe in the rustling touch of lined

Paper with pencil scrawling along where

Graphite becomes letters then becoming words.

At the end of the writing residency, when we asked the 60 students for their feedback, this is what they said:

“By working with a professional writer, I’ve learned new ways of writing and have expanded my imagination and views on writing. My appreciation for writing and poetry has increased dramatically.”

“It made me open my mind more and use my imagination. It also gave me a better understanding  of how to start writing in unique ways.”

“I learned to feel more emotion and flow in my writing.”

“Working with a professional writer changed my approach to writing by making me feel more confident about my writing abilities.”

Writers in the School has continued residencies at Serbu’s Phoenix program as well as Elmira and Kalapual high schools, both rural schools with students considered at-risk for not finishing their high school education.

Your support can empower students to find their voices.