in our own words school workshops making an impact with kansas city kids
The Writers Place youth program In Our Own Words had an extremely successful year, reaching out to six area schools considered underserved in writing and literacy programs. The writing workshops in each of these schools were facilitated by four published writers/teachers from The Writers Place. Maryfrances Wagner presented at William Chrisman High School and Blue Springs High School in eastern Jackson County. Jose Faus led workshops for 7th and 8th graders at Lee Tolbert Academy at 34th and Paseo. Rhiannon Ross taught the workshops at Cristo Rey High School on Linwood Blvd., while also tutoring individual students on literacy at the school. Judith Towse Roberts introduced the program to Hogan Middle School, leading workshops in 7th grade and 8th grade classes.
The students in each workshop wrote poetry in response to their own experiences and feelings, creating works of art of which they were very proud. The best of these pieces were chosen to be published in an anthology of poetry, entitled In Our Own Words, with editing, formatting and layout, along with front and back cover typography, provided by The Writers Place’s own Greg Field. This anthology represents an opportunity for publication for students in urban schools, grades 7-12, who otherwise would not have the chance to work with a professional writer and give voice to the pain and difficulties of their young lives. One student says, “I enjoyed making something new out of my insecurities.” Another who attended the Writers Place workshop on April 10th said, “Thank you for allowing me and my peers to come into such a heartwarming facility."
The workshops and readings at the April 10th event at The Writers Place were facilitated by five writers and authors: Frank Higgins, Natasha Ria El-Scari, Priest Hughes, Rhiannon Ross and Greg Field. A student wrote of this event in a thank you note to The Writers Place, “I enjoyed the poetry reading and it was interesting to hear the poems of other students, but also to be treated with respect and equality among all of you.” The youth programs at The Writers Place are growing and gaining recognition in our community as a vital part of the mission of celebrating writing and literacy in Kansas City.