The Staple: Family Writing Nights at YMS!

June 7, 2013 | 826 Blog Post

As the school year comes to a close, we’re taking just a moment to look back.

This has been a year of growth and change for 826michigan, and nowhere more so perhaps than in our after-school tutoring program at Ypsilanti Middle School. With the advent of Program Coordinator D’Real Graham, and our partnership with Bright Futures, the program really kicked into high gear in 2012-2013.

Things will have to change again as the whole Ypsilanti community adjusts to the upcoming consolidation of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts. We’re adjusting too. But we know that, thanks to the partnerships we’ve developed with community organizations like Eastern Michigan University, tutoring will be going strong next year and into the future.

We now turn to Program Manager Catherine and Program Coordinator D’Real to tell us more about Family Writing Nights, one successful aspect of this year’s programming at Ypsilanti Middle School.

–Editors Amy– 

Program Manager Catherine Calabro: As followers and fans of 826michigan, you have likely seen some remarkable highlights of our YMS after-school program over the past few months on social media and in our newsletter. The program has gone through a transformation over the past year as we’ve partnered with an amazing team at Eastern Michigan University to make something new and dynamic (Tutoring! Clubs! Field trips! Writing Nights!) for the seventh and eighth grade students at Ypsilanti Middle School. Bright Futures, Office of Academic Service Learning, VISION, and the EMU Writing Project have created a caring, supportive, and challenging homework help and youth development opportunity for these students four days a week after school. D’Real, can you elaborate on some of the highlights of the year at YMS?

Program Coordinator D’Real Graham: Of course, Catherine, I’d be happy to! The number of student participants grew exponentially immediately following our first day of drawing robots, composing expository stories about why every student deserves an apple-eating, flying robot, and peer editing comical short fiction narratives (about robots, of course). Each day students realized they had the opportunity to work one-on-one or in small groups to complete their homework assignments while also gaining a deeper understanding of their core subjects. Even when students didn’t have homework, they came running into our “third-space”: excited to write something new, read something different, and experiment with expressing themselves creatively. After a few weeks of bonding, we became a team . . . no, wait, we developed into a family.

We are so grateful to have partnered with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project to organize two evenings of family writing for our students, families, and the YMS staff. The workshops were a part of the Family Literacy Initiative, a series of community writing classes that support parents as they guide their students to become confident writers. Family writing nights at YMS were an incredible success—at our first event in March, Kim Pavlock and Chelsea Lonsdale presented a “Family Writing Fun Night,” complete with stations of collaborative writing games for students and parents, with plenty of time for sharing. In May, Karen Hoffman and Joy Versluis presented “Make Way for Writing: A Family Writing Workshop” through which students and parents reminisced and wrote together about their favorite play places.

Creative juices flowed as families huddled around tables equipped with writing utensils and blank canvases in the form of paper! Together families amused themselves with and bonded over shared experiences evoked through writing prompts and games. The workshop compelled families to engage in meaningful, collaborative tasks that ultimately allowed each family member to embrace the joy of exercising their creative dexterity. The facilitators did an excellent job sharing practical ways to integrate writing projects into the household.

All of us at 826michigan and the YMS tutoring program send our deepest to Kim Pavlock, Chelsea Lonsdale, Karen Hoffman, and Joy Versluis for hosting a social and creative outlet for families to enjoy!

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