Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield to hold two-week literacy institute for immigrant teens from Bridgeport


Image: CT Writing ProjectThe Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield (CWP), based at Fairfield University, will welcome 15 Bridgeport teens who have recently arrived in the United States to Ubuntu Academy, a free literacy institute that's part of CWP's popular summer labs for young writers.

Based on the African philosophy of Ubuntu - "I can be me because of who we are together" - the Academy will offer English language learners, including refugee youth with limited or interrupted formal education, 10 full days of literacy learning through graphic novels and digital storytelling. The Academy will run from July 21 through August 1.

Ubuntu Academy came about after CWP Director Bryan Ripley Crandall, Ph.D., offered a daylong workshop for an English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Bridgeport's Bassick High School this winter. After he left, some of the students, who represent all grades at the school, wanted to keep in touch with him.

"The students found me on Facebook, which I thought was amazing," said Dr. Crandall, who has more than 18 years of experience working with urban schools and students. "They really want to learn. Seven of them are honor roll kids."

Dr. Crandall designed a special lab for these students who hail from Afghanistan, Congo, Vietnam, Rwanda, Iraq and other nations. Throughout the summer, CWP offers several labs for young writers and he felt digital storytelling and graphic novels would best suit this group of learners. "Even though they're learning English, all of the kids can draw so something like creating a graphic novel makes sense," he said.

The need for summer programs for students such as those enrolled in Ubuntu Academy is clear. Research shows that most students experience "summer loss" during June through August, when they are not in print-rich environments or encouraged to build their vocabulary and reading skills. This is especially true for those who are not native speakers of English.

"My students benefited from my participation in CWP-Fairfield's summer institute for teachers last year," said Edna Garcia, ESL teacher at Bassick High School. "As a result, I've encouraged my students to begin writing their lives and global experiences. Ubuntu Academy will enhance their English proficiency."

In the graphic novel lab, the students will learn about the craft of blending storytelling with drawing. They'll be exposed to the concepts of pacing and economy of language as they create their own graphic novels. In the digital storytelling session, they'll study the visual and sonic components of communicating through video telecommunication, personal computers and other 21st-century technologies.

Bassick High School is providing transportation for the teens and several departments at Fairfield University helped Dr. Crandall sponsor the program. "Many American-born students are coming to write their first novel and to take part in poetry slams," he said. "Fairfield helped me to open the doors to a population of youth that is often overlooked."

Ubuntu Academy students will also have a chance to interact with other students from across Fairfield County enrolled in the summer labs in collaborative projects that enhance global perspectives, art, and communication.

CWP's 2014 Summer Labs for Young Writers are:

  • Little Lab for Big Imaginations: A Young(er) Writers Workshop, grades 3-6 - July 7-11
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Writing Your Novel, grades 6-8 and 9-12 - July 7-11
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Exploring Poetry, Rap & Spoken Word, grades 6-8 and 9-12 - July 14-18
  • What's a Picture Worth?: The Graphic Novel Lab, grades 6-8 and 9-12 - July 21-25
  • Stop the Presses: Writing for Print, Online & Broadcast, grades 6-8 and 9-12 - July 28-Aug. 1
  • eStories: Digital Composition & Podcasting, grades 7-12 - July 28-Aug. 1
  • Who Do You Think You Are: The College Essay & Other Personal Narratives, grades 9-12 (especially rising juniors) - Aug. 4-8

Part of Fairfield's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield is one of three National Writing Project locations in the state. Each year the CWP-Fairfield sponsors summer institutes for teachers and youth programming with a mission to promote best practices for writing. All sessions run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Applications and more details are available at www.cwpfairfield.org.

"The Common Core State Standards adopted by Connecticut expects a lot more writing across all content areas and grade levels," Dr. Crandall said. "Students will need to demonstrate proficiency in a wider variety of genres written for audiences with purposes that matter to them, including the use of digital literacies. Educators who are part of the National Writing Project network are better prepared for these challenges." NWP is often applauded as the best professional development model for teachers and the positive influence they have on preparing students as writers in school and beyond."

For more information on this workshop and other CWP events and initiatives, contact Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall at bcrandall@fairfield.edu. Reporters interested in covering the summer labs should contact Meredith Guinness, assistant director of Media Relations, at (230) 254-4000, ext. 2950 or mguinness@fairfield.edu.

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Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 27, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 324