Dr. Melody Zoch
Everyone has a story, and every summer UNC Greensboro’s School of Education, in partnership with local educators and authors, provides space for elementary, middle, and high school students tell their own. The Young Writers’ Camp, part of the UNCG-sponsored Gate City Writes program, provides campers with two weeks of workshops at UNCG to learn writing processes, unlock professional writing strategies, and develop a variety of writing styles in their unique voice.
In 2018, Gate City Writes invited a different group of budding writers to UNCG.
“We wanted to expand Gate City Writes to serve more diverse groups,” says Dr. Melody Zoch, associate professor in UNCG’s Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education. “So we created another two-week camp for an important, and sometimes overlooked, demographic in the community.”
Community Voices Summer Workshop, offered by Gate City Writes at the same time as the Young Writers’ Camp, invites teenagers and young adults to share their stories as immigrants and refugees in North Carolina. Recognizing the writers’ multilingual abilities and cultural backgrounds, Community Voices immerses them in a literacy and writing program tailored to their needs.
“Every child deserves the opportunity to be a writer,” says Zoch, “but that’s an opportunity that may not be possible during regular school hours. Gate City Writes serves that need.”
Although parents pay for their students to attend Gate City Writes’ camps, families suffering from economic hardships, including refugee and immigrant families, can get additional support. For Community Voices campers, much of the support came from a 2018 Faculty First Summer Excellence Award. Established in 2014, the Faculty First Award – part of the Faculty First Program – funds research and creative projects during the summer months. The awards are highly competitive, so recipients represent the best academic rigor and creativity UNCG offers.
“The Faculty First Grant was a critical component to successfully launching the first Community Voices Summer Workshop. Not only did it provide transportation for many of the campers, it also allowed us to disseminate their writings to broader audiences.”
This included 84 yard signs bearing quotes from students’ personal narratives, as well as 200 copies of an anthology containing all of the students’ writing. This document was designed in collaboration with UNCG art students.
Such collaboration is of the utmost importance to Zoch. “Community Voices has been an excellent opportunity for youth, families, and UNCG graduate students. With classrooms increasingly diversifying, it’s important for our students to gain experience with multilingual learners from a variety of situations.”
The success of 2018’s Community Voices Summer Workshop led to the camp’s inclusion in Gate City Writes’ summer programing for the next four years, but Dr. Zoch is hoping to offer the new camp for much longer.
“We’re incredibly thankful for the University’s investment in this project. We’re continuing secure funding, but we are also looking for volunteers for future camps. This is a wonderful opportunity for students and families to engage with UNCG, and we would love to have more staff and faculty to work with them as they explore their own experiences through writing.”
Story by Michelle Danner-Groves, Donor Relations
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