Power Writers Program Design

Empowering urban youth through the mastery of language and cultural literacy.

The Power Writers Program fosters literate, ethical and critically conscious young men and women who will be fully prepared to participate in our society. People who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it and change it as times change, are truly powerless, because they cannot imagine a future. This is particularly true for those teenagers who face the gravest challenges living in our nation’s most impoverished and dangerous communities.

The Power Writers Program presents students with broad intellectual and social challenges. In essence, Power Writers is a practical workshop in weapons, tactics and strategy. The weapon system we employ is language. We aim for powerful and pragmatic mastery of the four language literacies, Reading, Writing, and Public Speaking and Active Listening and our goal is to give the student participants a deep sense of ownership of the world around them and a deep appreciation of their personal life narrative.

Core Teaching Principles of Power Writers Seminars:

  • Complete respect for the Students
  • Complete trust of the Students
  • To create a sense of seriousness and scholarship about the work
  • To create an environment of support and safety in the seminar
  • Having a sense of high expectation for each student, both in effort and output
  • The materials and work presented to the students is taught with a sense that is has real pragmatic value for them
  • Develop critical and analytical thinking that is sharp but not mean spirited.

Components of a Power Writers Seminar

Power Writing is not just a poetry class, rather it is a liberating experience through which genuine dialogue takes place across all the barriers of race, class, age, gender, and ethnicity which our society imposes. It is a learning space where the traditional roles of teachers and students transform into a collective cognitive apprenticeship. Our students are encouraged to seize the responsibility for their own education. Since it is not possible to teach our students all that what we know, in Power Writing we teach students how we know what we know.

The Power Writing class has ultimately taught me that words are powerful weapons and that poetry is a lifestyle, a way of being. It’s something that I breathe; it’s something that I do. Moreover, I was able to do things I never thought I could do, realize things about myself that were once hidden and become an open-minded, intuitive individual. Through the skills that Amy, Joe and Roland have given me and taught me I was able to find the strength I needed to overcome deeply troubling life issues and explore, no matter how painful, my personal life history. The Power Writers’ motto is “If you don’t write your own life story, someone else will write it for you.” Thanks to this class I feel like I have the confidence to do so.
Joel A., 17, Bronx NY

Power Writing creates 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. Power Writers become collectors of words and therefore of ideas. We believe that in the acquisition of these words and ideas and in their application in the world, that the lives of these young learners are transformed. And we believe that Power Writing represents a clear and viable alternative model to the current state of failed teaching in our nation’s high schools. Our Power Writers become Jedi warriors of words.

It is a revelatory experience when young people are truly seen and heard for the gifted people they are at heart. In Power Writing it is often the very first time that a young person will know what it is like to experience acceptance and deep appreciation for their words, their thoughts, and their deepest emotions without judgment. The sanctity of the “safe space” creates a zone of freedom where students feel protected as they test and refine their self-expression. While all genuine creative outlets hold the key to self-awareness, the unique experience of writing and speaking your own poetry is particularly liberating.
Amy Sultan, Power Writing Mentor