Boston boasts a bustling cultural life. From the numerous museums on Bostonian streets to the multiple opportunities for developing artists, there is a part of the Boston cultural scene for everyone. At the center of the city is one of the primary drivers of the arts and culture scene — Emerson College. Some of the most creative thinkers in Massachusetts are based at Emerson and they are giving back to high school students through the program EmersonWRITES.
Every Saturday morning for 15 weeks, students from Greater Boston come to Emerson for three hours worth of writing, editing, college preparation and pizza — all at no cost.
EmersonWRITES is taught by Emerson graduate students with degrees in creative writing. “We’re extending ourselves out to the community,” says Christopher Grant, who founded the program seven years ago. “We’re teaching something we do well. We offer what we have—a couple of teachers, a couple of boxes of pizza, and we see where we can take it from there.”
The program offers four genres to choose from: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and mixed genre. In the classes, students discuss published works in their genre, explore different sub-genres and styles of writing, and write and workshop their own pieces. Some classes take a more abstract approach to writing. Students of the poetry class, for example, were given a piece of blue tissue paper and golden wire and challenged to create a visual representation of a word.
The teachers in the program want to challenge perceptions of their genre and its boundaries, help students improve their writing and learn from their students as much as they teach them.
“The whole idea of reading, writing, and stretching your creativity is what makes our curriculum... I like thinking about what fiction is and what it could be… and expanding all of our minds to the possibilities,” says Cathryn Title, one of the fiction teachers this year.
Many previous students have returned to the program. “The community brought me back,” says Karen Cheng, who is taking nonfiction this year.
"The great thing about writing,” says Alena Ramos, also a nonfiction student, “is that nobody can tell you that your story is bad. Because it’s your story.”
EmersonWRITES culminates in an anthology, Spine, comprised of students’ work. Students have the chance to work on the publishing process in a subdivision of EmersonWRITES called EmersonPUBLISHES. Grant emphasizes the need to leave something behind that you can be proud of. “We believe that your expression really has the power to change the world, to change society. That’s why having the opportunity to practice expression is so important,” he says.
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to teach students how to change the world through their writing. “Every sentence is a new opportunity,” says Anthony Martinez, a fiction teacher.
EmersonWRITES is helping students change the world, one sentence at a time.