The Power of a Conversation: A Recap of the 2017 Spring Write-a-Thon

Never underestimate the power of a little conversation.

The Write-a-Thon grew its roots in 2015, during a little conversation between my school district’s (Robbinsville, New Jersey) Superintendent, Dr. Steven Mayer and myself.

The crux of the conversation was, “How can we teach teenagers to see writing as an exercise in self-discovery and authenticity not just a forced activity aligned with the harbingers of school?”

So we talked. We listened. We brainstormed.

And 3 months later the first Write-a-Thon was held in my classroom., a 2-hour writing event that afforded students the opportunity to write, to tell their story.

The event hosted 13 writers including Dr. Mayer and received donations and support from my student’s parents, faculty and my own friends and family.

When concluded, the Write-a-Thon raised $1,300 for the Special Olympics of New Jersey.

Write-a-Thon-November 2015.

A few months later, in April 2016, as I was planning the second Write-a-Thon, Dr. Mayer was tragically killed.

The May event was held in his honor.

An event that began with me, fighting tears, recounting our little brainstorming session and how though he is physically gone, his story, his passion is alive and well.

The heart of the Write-a-Thon is simple–show up and tell your story.

This week, the fourth installment of the Write-a-Thon had 30 student writers, ranging from 7th to 12th grade. The event hosted a $500 college scholarship essay challenge and was filmed by the Emmy winning “Classroom Close-up NJ” and will be featured in October 2017 episode.

My experience as both a high school teacher and an adult has taught me that, in the contentious transition between young adulthood and adulthood, it’s easy to get distracted with the noise of the world.

It’s easy to forget about the importance and power of your voice, of your story.

It’s easy to believe your story doesn’t matter.

It’s easy to believe fiction.

The Write-a-Thon is a celebration of the human voice. Of the lasting power of the true human story.

And it’s our stories that stand before us, that become the permanent teachers, forever instructing the lives of the living.

Be well,

Jay

Write-a-Thon Supporters

The 2017 Write-a-Thon received tremendous support from the following Robbinsville High School programs:

The Debate Club

Coach Patterson and the Robbinsville Football Program

Robbinsville Boys Lacrosse

The Drama Club

GSA

The RHS Literary Magazine

The RHS Class of 2019

A Look at the Spring Write-a-Thon

 

Check out more pictures courtesy of NJEA


 

Write-a-Thon Recap

writeathon
Write-a-Thon Scholarship winners- Michelle Singh and Shameek Ray. Each writer won a $500 college scholarship.

On May 17th, amidst the buzz of the approaching senior prom, WoFo sponsored a Write-a-Thon  at Robbinsville High School .

The event attracted thirty-three 12th grade writers. Their mission–in two hours compose an original, personal story which recounts a time where their perspective of themselves or the world at large was challenged.

For the contest I constructed a panel of judges who read through each entry. Throughout the readings, the panel continuous commented on how impressed they were not just by the writing skills the students demonstrated but with the sheer vulnerability the students wrote with.

I applaud all those who participated in the Write-a-Thon. Who summoned the courage to be vulnerable and pin their truths down on the page.

When the contest concluded, I read every entry.  The submissions run the gamut of emotions and subjects. Of styles and themes. But for certain– all entries announce an aliveness with passionate voices. I can only hope all the writers strengthen and sharpen their writing into a fearsome roar. A roar that will continue to echo deep into the jungles of adulthood.

My initial hope for the Write-a-Thon was that one essay, one writer would win a $500 college scholarship. However, through some generous donations, through some extended support, WoFo was able to award two $500 scholarships.

When the judges presented me the two winning entries I was a bit surprised– not because the winners are not good students (because they are)– but because they are both such quite people.

And yet their writing is loud, humming with tension. Unlike the writers themselves, their writing demands attention. Their writing announces an intrinsic strength to question and to challenge not only themselves but the world at large. Their writing aches with vulnerability and honesty and I ( and the world) can only hope they continue to write.

Be well,

Jay