Mentoring Young Writers by Erika Saunders

Last week I was invited along with some other SDSPS members to present poetry workshops in local high school and middle school classrooms in support of a program hosted by the Brookings County Youth Mentoring Program (BCYMP) based on the recently compiled poetry anthology South Dakota in Poems

BCYMP is a youth mentoring program that recruits, trains and matches adult volunteers with K-12 grade students in Brookings County for the purpose of increasing their resiliency through supportive relationships. One way to build resilience and supportive opportunities for young people is to equip them with an understanding of reading and writing as a way of exploring identity and of finding their unique perspective and voice. While in the classrooms, we spent our time discussing the importance of capturing the varied voices and experiences that make up life in South Dakota and shared some poems from the anthology from folks who had sat in those same classrooms. We also discussed how writing can help each of us better understand ourselves and to take ownership of the things that have happened in our lives.

 We practiced writing through prompts about self, family, and favorite activities; and even touched on some ideas about form and strengthening writing through revision. It was fun sharing stories about the importance of our regional writing community in my own life and work and leading a class through a collaborative writing activity. The best moment came at the end when they excitedly asked to share their group poems with the whole class. Kids were coming up to me at the end of class still wanting to share even more poems.

BYMCP works to develop relationships that provide support, challenge growth and expand possibilities for the Mentees as they transition to adulthood. It was wonderful to spend time listening to the works of youth writers that I hope keep writing and join us all as lifelong members of the South Dakota writing community. We encouraged them to continue writing and consider submitting their work to the recently established Louine Schaufler Youth Poetry Contest through SDSPS that is open to submissions from SD middle school and high school students.

I look forward to next Tuesday, September 28 evening at 6:30 in the Brookings Library where the students have been invited to share their poems in a poetry reading hosted by the Mentoring Program through support from a South Dakota Humanities Council grant. All are welcome. As an extra treat, Dr. Patrick Hicks, Writer in Residence at Augustana University, who was the humanities scholar on the project will also be reading. If you are local to the Brookings area, please consider coming to hear some poetry or attend virtually at: Password = BCYMP

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