The NWP 2010 annual meeting in Orlando was the first annual meeting I have attended. I hope it will not be my last opportunity to participate in such an empowering conference. As I sat in the auditorium for Friday’s general session, I commented to the people sitting next to me that it isn’t often the knowledge and enthusiasm in a room is so palpable.
The session that was most relevant to me was “Youth Programs: A Key to Unlocking Your Site’s Potential.” The sessions leaders were enthusiastic and committed to our site’s belief that it is essential to reach out to young writers and provide opportunities to develop their writing skills.
Not all of the site participants had youth camps set up the way our WTWP site does, so it was interesting to learn about other approaches to working with youth programs.
One amazing project was carried out by the Southern Arizona Writing Project. The Project involved students, teachers, businesses, and organizations in the publication of Desert Living is Different. The book is given to newcomers to the Tucson area, and is available in libraries and other locations. Its publication was instrumental in convincing administrators to continue financial support for the site. Their experience supports the importance of making the community and the university aware of student writing by producing excellent publications and products.
Several writing “camps” are held at schools, sometimes in a class, sometimes after school. No matter what the scheduling, writing and revision are encouraged to create quality publications. Students are assigned duties and responsibilities for a real world experience. Another important factor is the cross grade level participation. Older students also serve as mentors to younger writers. These are ideas that can be incorporated in any writing program.
Another concern for NWP sites is funding for youth programs. One suggestion to increase enrollment is to hold small camps in multiple locations to facilitate student involvement. Many sites solicit donations from parents, teachers, businesses, and organizations. Communication with prospective donors is essential, including follow up with an anthology or other tangible product. Maintaining our youth programs is worth the time and effort involved in order to ensure the future of all our writing sites.