Creative Writing in the Community

At some point or another, most teachers are required to write up a teaching philosophy that essentially sums up what he or she believes about education, teaching, and learning. My teaching philosophy includes the sentence “I think literature and creative writing can save the world.” Of course, I think I was about 23 and terribly idealistic when I wrote that, but there’s still a part of me that believes literature and creative writing can at least inspire great things. In addition to the main charity I volunteer for, I’ve recently signed up to be a volunteer with a local Orlando-based nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and writing workshops to kids in the community and I did some research to see if these kinds of programs are available in other states. Sure enough, there are a lot of great ones out there and I thought it would be fun to share them here:

Orlando, FL: Page15

Page15 is the organization I’ll be volunteering for in Orlando, Florida and they have a really cool mission. They provide free after-school tutoring and creative writing workshops to kids in the local community. They aim to instill and enhance communication skills, personal creativity, and passion for writing and the expression of language. I’m stoked to be working with them.
Los Angeles, CA: 826LA

This is a super awesome organization that I was made aware of through my friend, LA-based artist and designer Sam Randazzo. Like Page15, 826LA provides after-school tutoring and writing workshops to students, along with in-school tutoring, help for ESL students, and assistance with student publications. Sam volunteers as a resident artist for 826LA and sketches artist’s renderings of stories that kids write as a collective group. Here’s one of the drawings that came from a story about a four-armed four-eyed sports enthusiast alien who, along with his three alien friends, meets up with some astronauts and they all make graffiti together by squeezing the green out of space frogs:

Photo Credit: Sam Randazzo

I love this idea of this organization and I wish they’d open a chapter in Orlando, or at least somewhere in Florida. They also have chapters in Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Michigan, NYC, Seattle, and Valencia (San Francisco). If you live in any of the areas where an 826 chapter exists, check them out!

Los Angeles, CA: WriteGirl

WriteGirl is another Los Angeles-based nonprofit that focuses on providing high school girls with a safe place to practice creative writing and self-expression. With the ever-growing pressure placed on teenaged girls to look, act, and be a certain way, I love that this organization is helping to teach girls to just be themselves and to use writing as a means to express themselves in place of negative influences.

St. Louis, MO: AmericaSCORES

AmericaSCORES is a St.Louis-based organization that partners with schools in urban communities to—wait for it—combine soccer, poetry, and service-learning to improve the health, academic achievement, and civic leadership skills of its students. How amazing is that? I’m a big champion of combining things kids already love doing with things that will help them learn and develop as citizens, so I’m very impressed by AmericaSCORES and their mission.

Arizona: Young Writers Program

Arizona State (yes, the university) hosts the Young Writers Program, a creative writing-based program aimed toward 4th-12th grade students in underserved communities. MFA-seeking ASU students volunteer to work with young creative writers. It looks like they also provide artists to assist with the development of the children in the community they serve. Neat!

Chicago, IL: Young Chicago Authors

Like many of the previously mentioned organizations, Young Chicago Authors offers volunteer-led workshops to students between the ages of 13-19. They encourage self-expression and the pursuit of literacy. Love it!

Portland, OR: Young Willamette Writers

This Portland-based organization encourages students to share their work with one another and provides professionally led instruction to 5th-10th graders who are interested in becoming writers. As a big fan of peer review, I think this is awesome.

There are many, many more organizations out there that use writing to improve their communities. For those of you who don’t know, before I was a teacher at Full Sail, I was a 7th and 8th grade teacher at an underserved Title 1 school in Orlando. I tried hard to start a writing club at the school to provide an outlet for the many students who desperately needed a place where self-expression was safe and encouraged, but I never got the support I needed from administration and I ended up at Full Sail not long after that. I still believe that a writing club would have really helped some of those students who were teetering between the right track and the wrong track.

If you’re a writer and you’re looking for a great volunteer opportunity, search your local community to find out if there are any writing-related programs near you. Nonprofit organizations thrive off of their volunteers and couldn’t run without them.

And hey, thanks nonprofit organizations for everything that you do!

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About Jaclyn Sullivan

I'm a full time Instructional Designer and a sometimes adjunct professor of English Composition. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and I'm a published fiction and non-fiction writer. Check me out on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaclynmsullivan I'm a big fan of post-modern literature and swear by the lessons of Kurt Vonnegut. Some of my favorite writers include Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Grace Paley, Flannery O'Connor, Louise Erdrich, and Raymond Carver. I like Tom Waits, Andrew Bird, actual birds, pictures of cats, actual cats, animals in general, polka dots, exercise, iced coffee, reading, writing, tv-viewing, the Internet, and food. I dislike rain on days when my hair looks good, sweating, t-rex arms, public bathrooms, books being made into awful movies, and when The Walking Dead is on hiatus.
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