The Power Writers program is in the middle of its 11th successful year teaching the power of literacy to more that 1,000 underserved youngsters in New York. Our students desperately need the skills we offer as they struggle to overcome the enormous gaps in their education and face an increasingly challenging future.
As you will see in the enclosed summary, we have been very busy these past 12 months and we are quite proud of our many successes.
Without the empowering gift of literacy, individuals cannot thrive and democracies cannot survive. Our three linked initiatives: The award-winning documentary, To Be Heard (tobeheard.org), our boots-on-the-ground, Power Writing Program (powerwriters.org), and Power Poetry (powerpoetry.org), the world’s first mobile community for young poets (link), all reinforce our unique and steadfast commitment to the goal of inspiring young people to write their own life stories.
We continue to rely on your generosity in order to do the important life-transforming of the Power Writers Program. We believe the need for the work we do has been painfully underscored In light of the recent school tragedy in Connecticut and similar tragedies elsewhere. Your support is crucial and we ask you to please consider us in your year-end giving plan as we help the next generation to prepare itself to take on the world with open eyes and a clear sense of purpose. More than ever we need a literate, ethical, engaged and empowered populace. And we look forward with anticipation to the opportunities and possibilities of the coming years.
Power Writing has been one of the most influential events in my life. Through Power Writing I developed the desire to question, to investigate and explore, to challenge and to dream. It was the beginning of a stage in my life in which I learned to look beyond several feet in front of me, and gaze at the horizon far ahead of me, thus better envision the kind of person I wanted to become, acknowledge the kind of world I lived in, and contemplate the things I needed to do in order to leave a mark. Power Writing has inspired me to live not only for me, but to do what I can to make the lives of those around me a little better, to take a position for things I am passionate about, and to never stop learning. Young people need beautiful mentors to guide the children of today to a path in which they hunger for knowledge and truth. Power Writing is an outlet to release pent up sorrow and anger and to transform it into raw and powerful creative writing. I only wish I could put Power Writing in every school.
– ALBERTO LUNA, PhD Candidate, University of Arizona School of Psychology
Power Writing fosters literate, ethical and critically conscious young men and women who will be fully prepared to participate in our society. We teach high school students that mastery of the four language literacies, Reading, Writing, Public Speaking and Active Listening, has a critical impact on living a full, actualized, and rich life. We create a safe space, a creative community for students to express, test and refine their worldviews and to integrate their creativity, passion and ethical strength in the personal process of life building. We believe that there is no silence in resilience. By giving young people a voice we nurture resilience in our Power Writers as they become Jedi warriors of words.
American youth are facing a profound crisis in literacy. It not only impacts their individual lives, it threatens the future of our country: Two thirds of the many millions of individuals currently enmeshed in our prison system are functionally illiterate; This crisis reaches far beyond the lowest ranks of our society—only one out of eight adults reads well enough to understand the US Constitution. These alarming statistics reflect the failure of our school system to impart a love of language and an understanding that literacy is essential for success in the modern world. If we don’t instill in our youth a love of language and a deep appreciation of the power conferred upon those who can read, write, speak, and think critically, the future of our democracy is imperiled.
Even though everyone acknowledges the importance of this skill set, the current approach to teaching literacy has failed miserably. Kids who can’t read, write or speak with fluency cannot succeed at any other subject in school. They become ashamed and embarrassed. One million kids drop out of school every year. That means that roughly 25% of our school age population never graduates high school. The decline in literacy skills over the past decades has been mirrored by a commensurate disengagement from an enriched creative arts curriculum—At the heart of the traditional American creative arts curriculum there was always a commitment to writing, reading and public speaking. The Power Writers Program presents a highly successful alternative teaching model to address this crisis.
IN THE SCHOOLS
The Power Writers Program is engaged in full year residencies at University Heights and P.U.L.S.E, alternative high schools in the Bronx. Power Writing is offered as a College Now class at Bronx Community College and Hostos Community College/Griots Collective. This year we had a full year partnership with the Norwalk Housing Authority providing afterschool classes for students living in public housing. We have also conducted shorter-term residencies in several schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan and in schools around the country. This year Power Writing students from University Heights conducted an all-day symposium at the Fieldston School as part of the inter-school program, Classroom Connections. Also attending are student from bringing Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy. We will be partnering with an organization called Counseling in the Schools to provide workshops with young New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy under the auspices of a FEMA sponsored program, PROJECT HOPE.
Over a dozen schools in New York City alone have expressed a real need for the Power Writers Program for their students, but in the face of continued budget cuts there is no funding available. This presents you with an opportunity to adopt a school and have your contribution go into direct impact in the classroom.
The Nuyorican Poet’s Café remains home to our Saturday workshops that bring together young writer/performers from all over the City. Several of our graduated students have been training with us and are now co-teaching Power Writing in many settings.
IN THE MEDIA
TO BE HEARD: the documentary that centers on students of the Power Writers Program, has been featured in over 30 film festivals in the United States, Europe and Central America, receiving critical acclaim and several Best-of-Festival Awards along the way. The film has been airing on PBS stations nationwide since January with high ratings from viewers and television critics. Please visit to learn more about the documentary’s amazing journey. www.tobeheard.org
The U.S. State Department has chosen TO BE HEARD to represent the United States arts community as a participant in the American Film Showcase – USC School of Cinematic Arts project. The film has been shown in several countries, many with emerging democracies. Roland and Amy have been travelling with the film to Malawi, Egypt, Belaruse and on to Iraq and Algeria as cultural & educational ambassadors. The response to the work of Power Writing in all of these varied settings has been wildly enthusiastic and astounding. There is universal hunger for the freewheeling self-expression found in a Power Writers class.
One of the most exciting and promising aspects of our work is the recently launched Power Poetry mobile/online community: www.powerpoetry.org. A vibrant mobile presence the world’s first mobile poetry community for youth, through which we will nurture a national network of engaged young writers who learn to use their language skills to change their own lives and positively impact the world. Here young poets can upload their text, audio, and video poems, comment and critique each other’s work, participate in online live poetry slams, and connect with sponsoring NGOs around the country in order to use their writing to change the world. This is the only venue of its kind. It marks the first opportunity for hundreds of thousands of young writers around the country to participate in a national interactive forum for poets. The site is also designed to be a teaching and literacy tool: Poets are now able to work individually with mentors. And software we are designing will track and enhance the growth of their literacy skills by analyzing the poems they submit. Power Poetry is supported by the National Endowment For The Arts and by PBS. We are proud to announce that we have just been awarded an ongoing Google AdWords grant of $10,000 per month in order to build out our Power Poets community. This breakthrough transmedia literacy tool is replicable, scalable and represents tremendous educational potential across multiple art forms. We are thrilled to make it one of the keystones of our initiative.
“Occupy Word Street” is the symposium model we have created that is focused on presenting the film and the principals of the Power Writers Program to college and university communities. This year will have or will be presenting at: Middlebury College; Hampshire College; Dartmouth College; Vassar College, New York University, Teacher’s College/Columbia University; Harvard Graduate School of Education; University of Wisconsin, Madison; USC School of Cinematic Arts, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College College. We were also partner/participants at the Algebra Project/Education Equity Conference at Princeton University in May.
This year there were 4 seniors in the Power Writing class at University Heights HS and all have begun college this fall. And many of our students from the original cohort are now college graduates and are pursuing post-graduate degrees in education and psychology among other disciplines. Many “Power Writers of Old” return to class on a regular basis and act as forceful mentors to our younger students.
Your tax deductible contribution is crucial to providing this critical resource to our city’s young people. We are asking you to join us in the exciting future of the Power Writers Program. Please help us help the next generation to prepare itself to take on the world with open eyes and a clear sense of purpose. More than ever we need a literate, ethical, engaged and empowered populace.
Amy Sultan, Roland Legiardi-Laura, Joe Ubiles and all the Power Writers