TCRWP's Raise Your Voice: A Writing Workshop for Young Activists

This October, TCRWP tried something we haven’t done before: running a workshop at the college… for kids! With the support of the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Foundation, the Project invited students in grades 4-8 from our partner schools in NYC and neighboring suburbs to apply. The goal of the 2-day workshop was to give young people an opportunity to work in collaboration with others on a cause they are passionate about. That work took a few forms: writing to clarify and communicate a stance or a perspective on an issue; practicing speaking to articulate that stance or perspective powerfully in person; and making an action plan that is doable - next steps within the young activist’s own community to raise awareness or work for change.

Students worked in small cohorts, with teachers including TCRWP’s Emily Strang-Campbell, Cornelius Minor, Arlène Casimir-Siar, and Shanna Schwartz as well as NYC teachers Marc Todd and Dulce-Marie Flecha and Teachers College graduate students Elana Fruchtman and Jermecia Trenell. Deputy Director Mary Ehrenworth, who also taught in the small cohorts, kicked off the event with an opening invitation to remember the power of story in trying to effect change.

Other highlights included two phenomenal keynote speakers who were an inspiration to teachers and students alike. The first, Erika Andiola, is an undocumented Mexican-American who fights for the rights of people like herself to remain in this country and to fully participate in it. She told gripping stories of her own growth as a political organizer, which developed out of necessity when her access to education was jeopardized by new laws in Arizona, and again when her own mother was on the brink of deportation. She encouraged all to stand up for what they know is right, and to work with others to make change.

The second keynoter, Olivia Van Ledtje, better known as TheLivBit, is an 11-year-old literacy activist who makes short videos about books she’s read and loved, and about issues that come up in books and in life. Her professional presentation wowed the young audience, and let them know that even if you’re young, you can find ways to connect to a large audience on topics you love.

In a grand celebration, participants met with families to share their work. Families and kids were surprised by how much they accomplished in just two days! The young people rose to the setting of the college. Teachers were blown away by the maturity of the youth. The hard work, the honesty, and the passion of the participants made this an event that no one will forget. It gave everyone a sense that change is truly possible.