How WriteGirl mentoring program helps young women find creative confidence through writing – San Bernardino Sun

On January 20, 2021, a group of mentors and mentees from the Los Angeles-based nonprofit WriteGirl hosted a watch party as one of their own delivered a poem during the inauguration of President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles resident and WriteGirl alum Amanda Gorman stood at the podium and delivered her poem “The Hill We Climb.”

“It will make me cry just talking about it,” WriteGirl founder Keren Taylor said of that moment.

Since 2001, WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring program, has helped girls ages 13-18 in Los Angeles and beyond discover the power of writing and how to put those skills to use in the real world. Young women, or those who identify as nonbinary, can sign up for numerous free workshops and panel discussions as well as receive one-on-one mentoring from one of the nearly 500 volunteers, made up of women who work in a variety of industries. WriteGirl services about 500 mentees annually and participants are guided through several types of writing including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, business writing, writing for graphic novels, screenwriting and songwriting.

“It was just such a welcoming place,” Charlie Dodge of Arcadia said during a recent phone interview. Dodge joined WriteGirl as a junior in high school along with her little sister. “They gave you a lot of opportunities to read your work in front of people. It was a very collaborative and encouraging environment.”

The roots of WriteGirl

The organization was founded by Taylor, a former performer, songwriter and afterschool program director, who had been laid off from her dot-com job and wanted to share her creative passion with others, especially in densely populated cities with higher numbers of at-risk teens.

“I think that I always felt the inequities that existed for women, so that was a big part of it,” she said during a recent phone interview. “We need to help women get ahead and the best way I knew how to do that was to help them with communication and leadership skills. If you can make it fun and not seem like school, maybe they’ll actually show up. And that worked.”

In 2013, WriteGirl received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, which was presented to Taylor and WriteGirl alumnus Jacqueline Uy by first lady Michelle Obama at The White House. WriteGirl was given the national stage again when Gorman spoke at the presidential inauguration.

“We’re so proud of how these women have been able to develop their voices and express their voices,” she said. “Every time Amanda is up there speaking, she just exemplifies everything we’re trying to help instill in teens and that’s confidence, a sense of reflecting back on their past but looking to their future, a sense of hopefulness, positivity, compassion for others and directness. All of these qualities Amanda embodies and are things we lean into here at WriteGirl.”

Building confidence and more

Taylor said that WriteGirl is less about specific skill-building and more about building self-esteem, creative confidence and ensuring young women see themselves as a valuable voice in the world.

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