In the fall of 2009, Dr. Marcelle Haddix came to me with an idea for having a writing conference for adolescents in the Syracuse area. We immediately began networking with individuals in public schools, private schools, community agencies, and at Syracuse University. Under her vision, we held the first annual WRITING OUR LIVES Conference at the historic Dunbar Center. Although we anticipated 70 participants, we had well over 100! Students found their way to the conference on a Saturday morning – a non-school day – because they wanted to write and they wanted to compose.
That fall, Marcelle and I began writing a grant to continue the Writing Our Lives project with a writing group at one local high school. We were funded the Joan N. Burstyn Endowed Fund for Collaborative Research award for our efforts and were able to establish one writing group for adolescents in one school, but also planted seeds for multiple other projects. The money helped pay, for example, to purchase sets of books and journals for students. We were also able to buy flip cameras and to promote digital story telling with the young people we worked with. Marcelle was able to promote a Summer Reading Program for middle school boys while I became part of an Early College High School project with rising 9th graders. In addition, I began working with a Somali Bantu Summer Writing Group that was partly established through the International Young Scholars program at Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University.
This year, WRITING OUR LIVES 2010 will be bigger and better. The conference will bring in adolescents, 6th – 12th grade, for several sessions to promote writing in their lives. In addition, it will collaborate with Syracuse City School District’s Building Men initiatives and continue supporting Syracuse City School District initiatives of building stronger writers.
For more information, please visit the WRITING OUR LIVES website hosted at Syracuse University’s School of Education/Reading and Language Arts Center.