Writing Center Establishes New Program in Chester

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Writing Center launched a new program sponsoring writing workshops in Chester at the College Access Center of Delaware County (CACDC) after this semester’s fall break. In this new project, three Writing Associates conduct weekly workshops with a group of fifteen students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades who are part of the already-established Roadmaps program.

The CACDC is an independent center providing a variety of free services preparing students for college; past Swarthmore projects have collaborated with the center, including Project Blueprints. The Center’s website is collegeaccessdelco.org.

Last spring semester, several Writing Associates interested in volunteer service first brought up the idea of a Writing Center and CACDC collaboration with Jill Gladstein, the director of the Writing Center.

While the Writing Center has worked on previous volunteer service projects at the Lang Center, the WAs’ proposed program in Chester would be a long-term volunteer service project for the Writing Center. The new program will be run by the Writing Center, with some administrative help from the Lang Center

After a semester of preparation and discussions, the Writing Center at the CACDC finally launched in the Fall Semester in mid-October.

Sustainability is a key goal in this new project. Gladstein said, “The project had to be sustainable beyond them. Too often projects get set up and when students graduate, it goes away.” To avoid that end, WAs from different class years are building a comprehensive curriculum for the program, in an effort to “put a structure in place that [is] sustainable.”

Currently, there are four WAs actively involved in the pilot program. Amelia Kidd ’11, Special Programs Coordinator of the Writing Program, provides the logistical support for the program, while the other Sara Lipshutz ’11, Julia Cooper ’12, and Alison Devin ’13 are volunteer WAs who conduct writing workshops at the CACDC on Wednesdays.

The WAs are working with a group of high school students from the Roadmaps program on developing their writing skills. The Roadmaps Program, more formally known as the Road Map to College Program, supports a cohort group of 15 high school students with the goal and guarantee of college enrollment.

Shayna Israel, the program coordinator at the CACDC, elaborated on the philosophy of the program: “Roadmaps is founded on a College Made Real Philosophy, which promotes college exposure and the articulation of lessons in terms of their application to college life. This practice not only works to make college real for students…but also works to imbed tools that aid in the retention of these same students while they are in their post-secondary institutions.”

Prior to the first workshop in mid-October, the volunteer WAs looked over writing samples from classes the students have taken in the past and pinpointed common issues that the students had. From there, the WAs designed the weekly writing workshops around these specific subjects. Throughout these workshops, the students will be working on a long-term essay on their family history.

Sara Lipshutz ’11, a volunteer for the project, said, “We’re having the students work on a single essay so it isn’t overwhelming, but each week is a new thing to do with that assignment.” According to Lipshutz, the first workshop was on pre-writing and brainstorming, the next week will be focused on outlines, and so on.

The workshops are geared towards both preparation for college and development of long-term writing skills. Julia Cooper ’12, another volunteer in the program, said, “We’re working with these students on going through the writing process step by step so they will not only thoughtfully produce a paper useful for them in the future, but also break down the writing process to make it more obvious what each of these steps is for.”

Indeed, writing skills are important for these Roadmap students, college applicant or not. Israel noted, “In the design of Road Map to College, the macro goal of incorporating a writing program is to dually prepare high school students for the kinds of papers they will need to write now and the kind of writing skills they will need to excel in college.”

After this semester’s essay on the students’ personal family history, the spring semester will help the Road Map students write research papers that include the socio-historic contexts of their families.

In the long term, the Writing Center also hopes to implement a drop-in writing center at the College Access Center (CACDC). The proposed drop-in center, according to Israel’s plans and expectations, the would aid students with scholarship essays, research papers, college admission essays and any other writing assignments students would like assistance on.

While the program is starting small this semester, the leaders of this new project have high hopes of expanding this program to provide key writing and college services for aspirational high school students in Chester.

The Phoenix