In December, 165 high school students and their teachers from 18 school districts across southern Missouri converged on the Missouri State University campus for “Make Your Statement, Write Your Story,” a day-long conference sponsored by the Ozarks Writing Project (OWP), a project of MSU’s Center for Writing in College, Career, and Community (CWCCC). Throughout the day, young people attended sessions led by teacher leaders who were excited to share their journeys as writers. The offerings included parody writing, flash fiction, six word memoirs, comic books, slam poetry, and more.
The day was modeled on OWP’s successful conference for middle school students, now in its tenth year and bringing more than 500 students to the annual event in the spring. Dr. Keri Franklin, director of the CWCCC, said, “We wanted to offer the same rich writing experiences for high school writers that we’ve been offering to our middle school writers.”
The day concluded with an assembly open to the public. The students were addressed by President Clif Smart and Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Gloria Galanes who invited the students to spend a day on campus and consider a career in writing. Keynote speaker Michael Frizell, author and MSU faculty member, told the student audience, “You have something to say. Your voice is important and we want to hear it.” Students were then invited to share some of the work they had written during the day in open mic fashion.
Teacher Jana Simpson summarized the day with a thank you to facilitators. “My students come from a very poor rural district. For many of them this was their first visit to a college campus. They loved the writing today so much that we had our own open mic in the car on the way home. You all have no idea what this meant to these kids.”
Co-facilitators Colleen Appel and Terri McAvoy are now preparing for the middle school conference to be held May 12, 2017. See the Youth Writing Conference website for more information.