To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Evan Hartley. I teach at South East Junior High in Iowa City. I am writing today in support of The Iowa Youth Writing Project, in particular to espouse the IYWP’s organization of last year’s Junior High Writing Conference.
I am about to begin my seventh year teaching full time at South East Junior High, and the Iowa Youth Writing Project has been actively involved in the work that I do in the classroom every single year. In fact, they have worked directly with my students each year. However, aside from the work the IYWP does on a routine basis in my classroom, and in other classrooms around the school district, the shining example of their devotion to spreading the love of writing among young people is the IYWP Junior High Writing Conference.
The IYWP Junior High Writing Conference in 2016 was packed with breakout sessions led by talented artists, writers, and performers. The artists’ talents ranged from comic/graphic novel artists to memoirists to performance artists. The experience was a treasure to all students (and adults!) involved. Students especially enjoyed the keynote address by Michelle Falkoff, and the way she spoke to those students who sometimes feel like they don’t belong because of their love of writing. She showed these students that there is a place for them, there are others like them out in the community, and she encouraged them to join this community.
Not only did the keynote speaker encourage my students to become active in a community of writers, but the IYWP Conference actually built in a time for participants to start this process: the open mic. After the morning and afternoon sessions, students were invited to share the writing that they’d done that day on a stage in front of all the other participants. This is undoubtedly one of the most popular parts of the conference. The students who attended loved to get a chance to share in a supportive environment, and they loved to hear and see what their peers produced. It was a truly memorable experience! I have no doubt that it increase the confidence of my students and gave them a taste of what it is like to be part of a community of writers and artists.
It is with great enthusiasm that I look forward to next year’s Junior High Writing Conference. The vision and organization by the Iowa Youth Writing Project is admirable and thrilling to experience.
Language Arts Teacher
South East Junior High
To Whom It May Concern:
When [IYWP] started, I’ll admit I didn’t like the idea and I wasn’t open minded . . . When I first saw all the volunteers I was really nervous and just didn’t want to be there. . . An amazing thing happen to me; a person walked up to me and sat beside me. She introduced herself and we talked while we doing our activity. She asked me if I was willing to share my activity with her. I was hesitated about doing that, but I did and I shared my piece with her. We had to write only 6 words. I wrote “I am almost 18, very scared” . . . At the end of our time, I really like the idea of this [writing project]. The [Iowa Youth Writing Project] environment was a warm, welcoming, peaceful, safe feeling. It was a place where we could share our stories through writing without being judged . . .
Every Saturday, a bunch of volunteers came] and visited us. [IYWP] had many different activities for us planned out. The unique thing about [them] is that we just don’t write. We draw, make things, made books, we played games, shared our experiences, build relationships, and we interact with each other . . .
The [Iowa Youth Writing Project] gave us the voice we didn’t have before. [They] helped us build a voice that helps us communicate things that we weren’t able to communicate or didn’t know how to communicate . . . If someone asked if I could change one thing about [the project] in general, my answer would be nothing. [IYWP] was the best thing that I looked forward to every weekend . . .
There is nothing like the [Iowa Youth Writing Project]. [They] are so different than anything else that was provided to me . . . [They] are NOT judgmental about us. If [IYWP] never ever came into my life, I would never had found the courage to open up and lower the wall that I built to keep people out . . .The [Iowa Youth Writing Project] wasn’t just volunteers to me or the other girls. All these volunteers were family to me and the other girls. Family doesn’t have to blood related. We make our family. I make my family and these volunteers are part of my family.
IYWP Monticello Graduate