New Grant Helps Girls Find the Writer Within

New Grant Helps Girls Find the Writer Within

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Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, is using a $25,000 grant from the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation to cultivate female writers in Connecticut.

...when I came across the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation and saw one of their aims was to cultivate female writers under their New ERA Women Writers Program, I knew I had to apply for a grant.

— Director of the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield and Associate Professor Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD

This summer, during a teacher-leadership institute facilitated by associate professor and director of the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP)-Fairfield Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, participants read Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s book, Cultivating Genius, which presents a framework for restoring excellence in literacy education. During a discussion of the book, one teacher spoke of her school's weekly after-school writing group for girls.

“I thought it was a terrific idea, so when I came across the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation and saw one of their aims was to cultivate female writers under their New ERA Women Writers Program, I knew I had to apply for a grant in hopes of supporting this initiative,” said Dr. Ripley Crandall.

With the grant,Dr. Ripley Crandall has collaborated with teachers from across Southern Connecticut to design The Cultivated Women’s Collective, a program that will support nearly 100 girls in grades five through 10. Participants will originate from eight districts stretching from New Haven to Greenwich with the goal of teaching them how to read, write, and think like writers. The teacher-leaders of these students are all members of CWP-Fairfield, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, which aims to improve students’ writing by strengthening the teaching of writing and providing professional development programs for classroom teachers.

Students signing up for The Cultivated Women’s Collective will commit to an hour of reading and writing each week with others in their groups and will be encouraged to write about topics that are important to them. During the program they will study the work of female authors and discuss how that work can influence their own.

Dr. Ripley Crandall has spearheaded many award-winning initiatives within the CWP-Fairfield, working alongside youth and especially those attending schools where the greatest opportunity gaps exist. 

“I’ve realized that inclusivity means heterogeneity, so it felt important to mix schools from all over Southern Connecticut for this initiative,” he said. “I like the idea of having sister schools from varying districts, so the girls can go online and share pieces with one another.”

The program is designed to provide students with 45 hours of writing assistance and will culminate in a conference on Fairfield University's campus this spring where students and teachers will have a chance to meet in person, participate in workshops, and share their stories or poems with one another. Participants will also have the opportunity to publish their work.

“Research shows that students like to write when it’s a topic of interest to them,” says Dr. Ripley Crandall. “We are intentionally choosing really good, diverse, contemporary books to inspire the participating young women to write from their own experiences.”

Representation matters, he adds. “Writing creatively means composing nonfiction as well as fiction. The goal is to cultivate the genius of every writer, just as scholar Gholdy Muhammad has taught us.”

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