Young Writers’ Summer Camp

Posted on October 11, 2018

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Glen Haven Youth at Young Writers Camp

Youth Writers’ Camp
By Salwa Majeed, CNNC Summer Volunteer, UNCG Graduate 2018

If you walk around the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s campus in the middle of July, you’ll find the grounds filled with children and young adults. Many of them are participating in different summer camps, where they’re learning how to work in teams, build character, or hone a new skill.

The Community Voices Young Writers’ Camp at UNCG invited both children and teens to sharpen their writing skills, and learn the art of storytelling. A number of CNNC Community Center youth participated!

The students were split into two groups, according to their age, and spent one week crafting stories about themselves. Volunteers and instructors worked one-on-one with these English language learning participants, clarifying the writing process, answering questions, and helping the writers convey their messages.

Inspiration for the stories also came from different sources; at one point, the older writers were challenged to reflect over a trip to the Weatherspoon Art Museum on UNCG’s campus. The goal of this camp was to not only teach the students about writing, but to eventually compile each story into a completed works — a book of stories from different cultural perspectives, authored by the young writers themselves.

“I do believe storytelling is a valuable skill for students to have, because it connects students to their cultural traditions, beliefs, and languages. It helps them preserve these for future generations and bring awareness to others who haven’t had the same experiences,” says Jill McClanahan, an instructor at Community Voices. McClanahan completed her Masters in Teacher Education this past spring, and her thesis included work with the student refugee population at her school. She emphasized the importance of how storytelling for these youth can help break barriers. “It helps us connect to our humanity in powerful ways,” she adds.

McClanahan worked primarily with the younger, middle school aged group of writers, many of them from the Glen Haven community. With the help of another instructor, Dominique McDaniel, the two of them aided students in creating PowerPoint presentations that showcased their life stories. One of the earliest presentations was from Essaw Teklu, a teen from Eritrea, who talked about his family’s constant need to move due to his father being a soldier in their home country.

Dejen Hadgu, another teen from Eritrea, spoke about being separated from his family and sent to a refugee camp in Ethiopia when he was 10 years old. McClanahan says she was moved by the children’s stories, and was excited to see how much progress they had made from the beginning of the camp to its end. “When students realize they have a voice and others are interested in listening to what they have to say, they demonstrate confidence,” she says. “Many of our students became so brave during this process and spoke up a bit more as the days went on.”

Presentations continued until the end of the week, and the camp signed off with both groups having a big lunch together, taking the time to reflect over everything they learned. Both instructors and volunteers foresee more camps like this in the future, and believe it will have a positive impact on refugee youth as they continue to learn to navigate through school and life.

A huge thank you to everyone that made this camp possible for youth in our community!

Learn more about the camp, check out the final products by some of the young writers and see some photos!

Legacy Crossing youth participants below







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