Yein Ji, 18, looked up from behind her computer monitor and focused her attention on the professional downhill mountain biker, who was visiting the young participants in the Salt Lake Teens Write program at the Salt Lake City Library. “What you’re doing now is going to have a huge influence on how you write and how you see the world and how you communicate later on,” said Amanda Batty, who talked to the Teens Write group about blogging, which she started doing as a teenager. “Just remember that before you hit ‘send,’ before you hit ‘publish,’ before you hit anything, the internet never forgets. I’m still learning this lesson.”
Modeled after a program in New York, Teens Write began about 10 years ago and is offered through Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center at Salt Lake City’s Main Library. Teens Write is one of several grant-funded programs at the center that are either one-time events or ongoing services available to anyone in the community.
The Center’s program DiverseCity, for example, brought together diverse writers and audiences from across the Salt Lake Valley. For the ASL (American Sign Language) Poetry Slam, the Center brought an ASL slam poet and educator to present an ASL poetry performance and facilitate a workshop on ASL poetry. The Race Perspectives project was designed to instigate candid dialogue about race, ethnicity and cultural identity by creating spaces and hosting events to raise awareness about these topics.
The Center also hosts or facilitates several writing groups and free writing coaches, sometimes for specific interests like Gay Writes and Silver Pen, which caters to an older demographic. Free workshops throughout the year include Them Winter Blues, Grant Writing Basics, Grammarphobia, Revision Ready and the popular series, Writing for Change, which recently focused on how to write letters to public officials, letters to the editor, writing for social media and how to find good, reliable data sources on the internet.
The ongoing Teens Write supports youth writers through a yearlong mentoring program in partnership with youth-focused organizations throughout the community. Teens come from a variety of backgrounds and places for this popular program that culminates in a printed book of their stories, art, photography and poetry. “They are all driven students who want to get more involved,” said SLCC psychology Assistant Professor Justice Morath, an associate director at the Writing Center. “We have teens from all across the valley, all levels of socioeconomic levels.”
Yein Ji’s mother found Teens Write while searching online for something to augment her children’s education. Ji’s brother, a bit of a poet, tried the program first and liked it. Ji, a senior at Woods Cross High School, is interested in writing poetry and screenplays, so, she thought she’d sign up for Teens Write. She was paired with mentor Cassie Goff, 22, a writing student at the University of Utah. “I wanted to be more involved in writing,” said Goff about volunteering with Teens Write. “I wanted to help other people get their voice out in writing. I think writing is very important for the soul, sort of therapy for yourself.”
Cassie Goff (left)
SLCC’s Community Writing Center program grants
· TeensWrite: $2,500 in 2015-2016 from Salt Lake County Arts Council*
· DiverseCity: $775 in 2015-2016 from Utah Arts and Museums*
· ASL Poetry Slam: $240 in 2016-2017 from Utah Arts and Museums**
· Race Perspectives: $3,500 in 2015-2017 from Utah Humanities Council**
* Ongoing projects applied for each year.
** One-time projects drawing to a close