In a world where people communicate through texts and YouTube videos, traditional writing skills seem hopelessly old-fashioned. Not so, says Robert Vogel, professor of education at La Salle University. He is the founder and director of a program called Writers Matter, which serves almost 1,000 kids per year in Philadelphia-area middle schools.
"Students that age have difficulty communicating." Vogel says. "They can be very verbal -- but they don't say everything they think and feel. In the right environment, they can communicate things that they'd never ever say in front of people. Then, once it's on paper, they're willing to share it, even reading their writing in front of their peers."
More importantly, participants in the program are better able to communicate with each other. Racial stereotypes and cliques break down as students become more confident while their writing skills improve.
So Vogel was thrilled when Samir Adwan, a Palestinian who teaches at Bethlehem University, wanted to bring the Writers Matter program to the Middle East. Three schools in Israel -- one Arab, one Jewish and one with a mix of Arab and Jewish students -- began the program last fall.
Vogel and a small group of La Salle students went to Jerusalem for the final sessions of the year, which were held jointly at the Arab-Jewish school. This was the first time the three groups met each other. Despite some understandable awkwardness at the beginning, the students found common ground among themselves and shared their wishes for peace and understanding.
For more information about Writers Matter, visit the website at www.writersmatteratlasalle.com.
The group is currently seeking funding to extend the program in the Middle East for a second year. If you’d like to support those efforts financially, you can contact Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org.