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Journals for Justice - Kicking Off the Next 25 Years of "Getting Smart to Do Good"

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    Kat Klopp

Our service project is an important part of the EL Education National Conferenceevery year: a chance for participants to give back as much as they receive throughout four days of connection and learning in 90+ master classes and inspiring events. Meet the beneficiaries of this year's exceptional service project.

Yerica, a 10th grader, exemplifies the purpose of the 2017 National Conference service project — Journals for Justice — benefiting students helped by organizations in the Chicago Literacy Alliance (CLA)

In a piece she wrote, published, and performed with 826CHI, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center that is part of the CLA, Yerica asks: “What do I want?”  She replies, “I want to be heard. I want to know that my voice counts, that people are listening…. I want to write and be known, not praised, but understood.”

Yerica and her fellow program participants will be one step closer to achieving their wishes, as beneficiaries of The EL Education Journals for Justice service project. The project engages 1,100 of our 2017 National Conference participants in donating new writing journals to students supported by 826CHI and Free Write Arts & Literacy, both members of CLA.

This year’s service project takes on special significance as we celebrate our 25th anniversary. For a quarter century, we have empowered a growing community of educators to transform classrooms so that students achieve more than they thought possible. In our classrooms, achievement means more than just mastery of knowledge and skills; it also means the creation of high quality work and the development of positive character. Our students “get smart to do good,” and pay it forward with their own masterful contributions.

Through the Journals for Justice service project, we join with our CLA friends to make sure that more students than ever have the chance to be authors of a better world.

Writing to Grow

Free Write and 826CHI both share our belief that every student has the potential to create the highest quality writing through hard work and a growth mindset. The journals we donate will help their youth improve their craft from the first draft to the final version.

Not every journal entry will be ready to publish in its first iteration, but with diligent revision, each can become a reflection of student mastery, so improved that it takes students by surprise. As one student Ramon put it, “I never thought I would be in a book because I thought only smart rich people wrote books.”  With the help of his writing tutors at 826CHI, and the opportunity to practice in his journal, Ramon has proven he is smart, and that he has an important story to tell.

Writing for Change

A change starts from within,” says Marshawn Knight, one of the incarcerated youth participating in Free Write’s programs. For many like Marshawn, change will start with self-reflection, as a poem in a private journal, but it won’t stop there. Marshawn’s poem is now part of a national campaign to break cycles of community violence through care and education. Marshawn has re-written his own life, and authored a safer, stronger future for all of us.

Make sure that hundreds more like Marshawn, Ramon, and Yerica have the chance to “get smart to do good.” Contribute to Journals for Justice, the #EL25 Service Project, by dropping off a new journal to the registration tables by 1pm on October 29th.