By Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
Critically acclaimed novelist Carolyn See once said, “Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world.” For the 500 girls involved in WriteGirl, a Los Angeles based organization dedicated to increasing composition skills for under-privileged female high school students, the written word transforms their lives and future careers.
“We really have a dual purpose to not only help teen girls develop self expression, confidence, and creativity, but we also are very much about getting girls into college,” said Founder and Executive Director Keren Taylor.
“Writing is the one skill they really need in order to obtain a college acceptance but to also succeed in college and beyond.”
Originally founded as a creative writing program, WriteGirl quickly expanded to provide girls with writing skills that can be utilized for any career. The organization offers workshops one Saturday per month and often meets in accessible and influential locations such as Huntington Gardens and Disney Hall.
“We’re trying to bring the girls to really creative, inspiring locations all over Los Angeles so they not only have motivation to attend the workshops but are also able to visit an artistic venue,” explained Taylor.
“Our goal is to give our girls an outstanding, sensational learning experience.”
In order to both educate and inspire girls, WriteGirl recruits volunteers who help mentor the students and lead workshops. The volunteer mentors are female writers who are often poets, journalists, marketing writers, or aspiring teachers. Since the workshops are offered to girls throughout their teenage years, the mentors forge relationships with their students and aid them in identifying their needs.
“We create a wonderful synergy of being able to tap into women who have a really valuable skill that they are willing to contribute,” said Taylor of the mentors.
“Many women view this as an outlet to their everyday work and an opportunity to give back to young girls and inspire them with their own passion for writing.”
For every meeting, the girls are exposed to different writing genres and topics, including songwriting and screenwriting, which are often not introduced in traditional school settings. The students adopt skills such as editing and public speaking and accomplish personal goals by composing and sharing their own creative works.
“They need individualized attention of a non-school environment, and they need inspiration and hope for all the things they are facing,” explained Taylor.
Along with serving girls from under-resourced communities, WriteGirl also teaches students facing a multitude of emotional struggles. The organization has previously worked with undocumented and incarcerated girls as well as pregnant teenagers. WriteGirl mentors encourage their students to express their feelings and experiences through their written works in order to heal from the trauma they often face.
“Our girls were not being helped in the way they needed to be helped,” said Taylor of the students’ backgrounds prior to joining WriteGirl.
“It’s a very treacherous time of life for them, but we are really excited to fill that void of what girls feel and need.”
WriteGirl is supported by individual donors and foundations and holds various fundraisers in order to constantly improve its curriculum. The organization also benefits from its graduates, many of which return to the program to guide their WriteGirl predecessors.
“Our girls graduate college and are choosing to help others,” explained Taylor.
“Our college graduates are graduating with a feeling of wanting to give back. They want to be mentors and of service to their communities.”
Taylor, who is a poet and songwriter, founded WriteGirl to promote the importance of writing. Seeing the ways in which younger generations disregarded writing, she sought to highlight the ways in which the written word can help teenagers both in school and as they eventually transition into their careers.
“Most careers involve a certain amount of writing,” she said.
“I really wanted young people to feel excited about writing and to share their voices.”
In addition to the programs offered for girls, WriteGirl is partnering with the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network to further encourage composition among teenagers. The organization is also hoping to aid students outside of Los Angeles, including those in North Carolina, Boston, and South Africa.
“We are looking at ways to train others so they can benefit from our curriculum and what we have learned,” explained Taylor.
For Taylor, the success of WriteGirl begins with the mentors who are able to support and encourage their students express their ideas.
“A lot of girls lack the confidence and the ability to know that what they need is inside of them. They just haven’t had people to cultivate and translate their ideas and feelings into projects.”
Through the work of WriteGirl, women across the nation are changing “the story of the world.”