You don’t have to search further than its name to know the importance the Academy for Young Writers places on the authorship of its students.
Founded in 2006, the young Brooklyn high school is already a model Student Press Initiative school. The Academy began working with SPI before the school even opened its doors to any students.
Three short years later, Academy students already produced five inspiring books, including two published this spring: the 10th grade’s The Truth Unfolded: Young Writers Explore the Crucible and the 9th grade’s Your Life, My Eyes: Poems & Student Profiles.
Founding Principal Carolyn Yaffe said, “When the name Academy for Young Writers was still just a name, and not a physical or emotional reality in any way, I could not have imagined the amazing products that my students and teachers would be able to create in partnership with the Student Press Initiative.”
With pride and a sense of ownership, the student authors took their turns presenting their own words during a student-led public reading of The Truth Unfolded at Teachers College, Columbia University. An air of celebration and camaraderie filled the room, making the event more reminiscent of a high school graduation ceremony than a typical project presentation.
The completion and publication of a SPI-sponsored project is a graduation of sorts for the students and teachers who participate in these yearlong educational, and often multidisciplinary, inquiries. It is a rite of passage for these Young Writers, particularly for students who sometimes struggled in traditional academic settings.
SPI’s projects aided the school’s growth as a community in addition to individual student development. This became most evident after the school added a second class in which each incoming ninth grade student profiled a 10th grader.
“It’s become the bedrock of much of our English curriculum,” said Courtney Winkfield, Assistant Principal and SPI Project Coordinator for the site. “It’s helped to define us in a way that regular curriculum alone couldn’t have.” The school created an internal SPI coordinating role – a move toward sustaining collaboration throughout uncertain financial times.
Next year, the school will graduate its first class of Young Writers, innovating a 12th grade project as an exit reflection, and sending the graduates out into the world, confident in their already published voices.
“SPI fits so beautifully with the school’s philosophy that I think the partnership means a lot to them,” SPI Curriculum Consultant Kerry McKibbin said.”They’re teaching us what an ideal partnership can look like.”