Starting in September, MOI began running a Writers' Room at nearby South High School due in part to generous funding by the Graves Foundation and the South High Foundation. The room provides drop-in writing support, is a host for literary clubs and events, and supports teachers with writing projects. However, the Writers’ Room is much more than a place for students to receive writing support.
When asked what the world needs to know about the Writers’ Room at South High School, Ollie, a senior, responded, “the Writers’ Room is ballin,’” and the other students in the room agreed. The Writers’ Room is not only a place where students at South High can get help with their writing assignments and college entrance essays, it's also a place where students can go to work on their own creative projects, relieve stress, and make friends. As one student, B, put it, “the Writers’ Room is both a safe space and a brave space.” It’s somewhere everyone is welcome and students are able to take risks and express themselves through writing.
Over the lunch hour, you can find more than a few students hanging out in the Writers’ Room. This week I got the chance to talk to a few of these students about what the Writers’ Room means to them, and what I heard filled me with joy.
“The Writers’ Room is a place to just be human.” When a student is having a bad day and needs a place to get away from the noise and business of high school, the Writers’ Room is one of the few places they can go. Although every student at South is assigned a counselor and a social worker they can talk to, it can be difficult to get in to see your counselor—especially if you need to talk to someone right way. Alternatively, many students rely on the Writers’ Room as a safe space to do self-care. Students told me that the Writers’ Room, compared to other parts of the school—which was built in 1970 and doesn’t have many windows, is both physically and emotionally more comfortable. The room’s whimsical tentacle theme and cozy chairs are almost as inviting as the warm smile on MOI staff member Sam Oppenheimer’s face as she greets students.
Students also like that when they go to the Writers’ Room for help, they can expect to be guided and not told what to write. They like the opportunity to review their peers’ writing as Writing Coaches, and they like being encouraged to work on their own passion projects at school. “I think there should be more opportunities for students to work on their own creative projects in school,” Zoe, a senior, said.
When MOI opened the Writers’ Room this September, we wanted to create a space that would not only support students’ academically, but also emotionally. MOI recognizes that students’ learning environment matters. Without a safe and inclusive learning environment, students are not able to reach their full potential. For this reason, MOI thrilled to hear that the Writers’ Room is helping support students’ mental health, and that students are not only creating here, but also building a community—a home.