SUNDERLAND - Established in 2006 by Geoffrey Gevalt, the Young Writers Project (YWP), a Vermont independent non-profi t founded in 2006, recently paid a visit to the students at Sunderland Elementary School as part of a state-wide program that assists students in sharing their writing with others and helping them improve their writing skills.
The program helps students develop new ways to utilize the Internet and digital technology, as well as training teachers and working with other media and arts-related partners to create external audiences for students' work and art. YWP strongly believes that providing an audience with objective feedback motivates young writers to work harder, learn more and become better overall writers. When young writers get critical feedback, it also improves students' critical thinking skills and their ability to re-think and improve their writing skills.
Gevalt brings 32 years of journalism experience to the project as the managing editor of the Burlington Free Press. In 2003, he began working with the Vermont Chapter of the National Writing Project, creating a weekly feature that offered tips about teaching writing to students.
Within a three-year period, the project had grown by leaps and bounds, with some 850 pieces of writing submitted during the 2005-06 school year. Then, in 2006, Gevalt was given a two-year grant to expand the program from the Vermont Business Roundtable (VBR). VBR is a group of over a hundred CEOs from many of Vermont's leading companies, non-profits and colleges who recognized the importance of this program.
In the summer of 2006, Young Writers Project, Inc. was incorporated as an independent 501(c)3 corporation and work began on expanding its impact. Since then, new projects have included the published writing works of more than 3,000 students in its newspaper series, which was generated from more than 21,000 submissions from more than 300 Vermont towns and New Hampshire schools.
YWP also created a student-led Web site called youngwritersproject.org, which has over 3,500 active users and nearly 700 hits a day on the site. Students share articles and writing projects, both receive and give feedback, post podcasts and songs and connect with other young writers throughout the Twin State region. They also created a successful college mentoring program in which about 50 college students each semester, give feedback to writers at the Web site.
They even developed the innovative Digital Writing Classrooms, which are private, fully supported Web sites available for teachers and after school programs to assist in the teaching of writing. Through these sites, YWP is currently working with more than 30 schools and assisting about 5,000 students.
The numbers say it all: 35,000 submissions a year, nearly 4,000 students published through the six daily and three weekly newspapers and over 4,000 students registered on the Web site. No matter which way you look at it, the Young Writers Program is certainly doing its part to keep alive "the power of the pen."