CWP-Fairfield Celebrates Return to In-Person Summer Writing Camps

CWP-Fairfield Celebrates Return to In-Person Summer Writing Camps

Image of teacher and students

CWP-Fairfield Young Adult Literacy Labs teacher Brenda Linares ’21, MA’22, and students Angelica Quirama Cardona (left) and Rhaiza Cely (right).

Director Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, and camp educators welcomed students to campus for Young Adult Literacy Labs.

We are a team that is passionate and brave, exploring words and facing challenges to solve problems together, because together we are unstoppable.

— Ubuntu Academy students

This summer marked the return to in-person Young Adult Literacy Labs for Connecticut Writing Project (CWP)-Fairfield. Director and Associate Professor Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, welcomed 140 students from grades 3-12 to campus, offering seven different literacy labs and, as always, putting in tremendous effort to offer fun and meaningful learning experiences designed to cultivate a love for writing.

“For the students who attend our Young Adult Literacy Labs, it’s about sharing ideas, possibilities, hope, stories, doodles, lists, drafts, and outlines,” said Dr. Crandall. “It’s truly amazing what the students can accomplish in a few weeks.”

The one- and two-week labs span four weeks in July and August, and include sessions titled "Little Labs for Big Imaginations," "Novel I - Characters Matter," and "Novel II - Plot Matters," "Who Do You Think you Are? A College and Personal Essay Seminar," and "Project Citizen - A Constellation of Possibilities."

Students who attend Ubuntu Academy, a lab designed for immigrant refugee youth, are invited to take part in activities and workshops to combat literacy loss during the summer months and to enhance vocabulary, writing, reading, and spoken English. With partial support from the Piper Foundation, these students are provided scholarships, materials, and transportation to campus. Ubuntu, which means “I am, because we are,” is a South African philosophy emphasizing community.

Eight years ago, Ubuntu Academy started with eight students from Africa and one student from Vietnam; this year the program received, on average, 36 students a day, with many students from Brazil. A new camp educator, Brenda Linares ’21, MA’22, joined longtime CWP-Fairfield teachers William King MA'16 and Jessica Baldizon MA’15 reading with students, breaking down certain topics and lessons for discussion, and working on personal mission statements and other writing exercises. While some students had more experience speaking and writing English than others, the group found ways to communicate and to help one another express ideas and emotions on paper. Drawing, for example, proved to be a creative way to help the group connect and learn.

Students in Ubuntu Academy take a break from the classroom to learn outdoors.

Students in Ubuntu Academy take a break from the classroom to learn outdoors.

“I started going to Cesar Batalla after school as an undergrad, helping out in the classrooms,” said Linares, who recently completed Fairfield’s Secondary Education program with a focus on world languages, and accepted a full-time teaching position as a Spanish teacher at Harding High School in Bridgeport, Conn. “I also spent time at Bassick High School, and really enjoyed working with the students, and knew I wanted to make teaching my career."

"This summer," she continued, "I worked at the CWP Labs because I wanted to help students discover their passion for reading and writing. I really enjoyed my time with Little Labs for Big Imaginations and Ubuntu Academy. I must confess that some of my best memories are from Ubuntu Academy. The students are amazing, intelligent, and simply need guidance, which is what we all provided. We weren't teachers but rather facilitators. As a first generation college student, I understand how important it is to get guidance from others, especially during the summer break.”

“Brenda is the next generation of exceptional teachers,” said Dr. Crandall. “Her language abilities are irreplaceable and [Fairfield's Secondary Education] program continues to graduate all-stars.”

Youth of Ubuntu Academy participated in the writing of a community poem inspired by Jason Reynold's Ain't Burned All the Bright and Newbery Medal recipient/author Kwame Alexander's national efforts to encourage individuals to write together. The resulting collaborative poem, titled, How To Become the Sun, was recorded by Ubuntu Academy teachers and students.

This year will mark the tenth edition of POW! Power of Words, a collection of writing from Young Adult Literacy Labs youth, published each fall.

“The students are incredible,” said Dr. Crandall, while sharing powerful mission statements written by Ubuntu Academy students as part of one of many exercises this summer. One of the students' statements read, "We are a team that is passionate and brave, exploring words and facing challenges to solve problems together, because together we are unstoppable."

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