LOS ANGELES, Cali. - Every day, more than 8,000 high school students drop out. Many are uninspired and unimpressed by what they learn in the classroom. Now, one woman has made it her mission to inspire girls to embrace a subject that lets them express themselves in writing, through a program that just won an award from the White House.
A pen, paper, and an idea are what some young girls say excite them.
"Our whole philosophy is to let a girl have some time to write and say what she thinks," explained WriteGirl Executive Director Keren Taylor.
Formerly a sales executive, Taylor started the nonprofit WriteGirl to give young women an outlet for expressing themselves.
"The public schools don't have the ability to attend to the creative needs of our young people," Taylor explained.
The girls are paired with professional writers who serve as mentors. They meet once a week and attend monthly creative writing workshops.
Amanda Gorman is 16 years old and she's writing a book with the guidance of her mentor Michelle Chahine.
"I'm so inspired by her energy and her confidence," Chahine said.
Gorman has a speech impediment, but writing has given her a new way to communicate.
"I found this other medium where I could be myself," Gorman said. "I don't have to worry if [I'm] getting the letter right, so it granted me this new power that I didn't know before."
This year, 350 girls are participating in WriteGirl. Most are from high-density schools and are at risk for dropping out. They all have the opportunity to submit their writing for publication and 100 percent of graduating seniors enter college.
Jackie Uy, also 16 years old, said her writing has improved, thanks to the help of her mentor Katie Geyer.
"The main thing that she's taught me is to have self-confidence," Uy said.
"Every time I read something that Jackie wrote, I'm almost in tears," added Geyer.
It's a program that's building confidence with the written word.
The WriteGirl mentors include journalists, screenwriters, authors, poets, and executives from various backgrounds. Taylor is a poet and songwriter herself.
Last November, WriteGirl received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House. Jackie and her mentor were chosen as representatives and got to meet Michelle Obama.
WriteGirl was launched in December 2001 to bring the skills and energy of professional women writers to teenage girls who do not otherwise have access to creative writing or mentoring programs. WriteGirl is absolutely free. The workshops are always free for WriteGirl members and it provides all of the necessary materials. WriteGirl was also honored by First Lady Michelle Obama with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
Goals of WriteGirl:
- To introduce young writers to a wide variety of genres
- To teach creative and critical analysis skills
- To encourage girls to explore and broaden their creative talents, both oral and written
- To nurture girls and promote healthy behaviors so that they can make life choices through positive direction for a happy empowered life
- To assist girls in preparing for their future towards education
- To inspire girls to pursue careers in writing, such as journalism, public relations, screenwriting, songwriting, corporate communication, publishing, website content producing, editing and creative writing
- To provide girls with better communication skills and tools to confidently pursue the challenges they may face
WriteGirl is essential to helping our young women know how important their thoughts and feelings are, not just their looks and bodies. WriteGirl sees the women in these girls and provides a safe space for young women to speak their voices as writers, activists, artists, and much more. It has become a stepping-stone to many opportunities for young girls.
Copyright 2014 by Ivanhoe Broadcast News and News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.