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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

WritopiaLab

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Alliances & Advocacy, Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Education, Student Services

Mission: Writopia Lab is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to: 1.Provide young people with the creative inspiration and intellectual environment that may not be available to them at school. 2.To help each student become comfortable with expressing himself on paper and to ultimately cultivate (or maintain) a love of writing in each of them. 3.Create and sustain a diverse community of young writers who find commonalities in a shared passion for ideas and expression. 4.Offer discounted or waived fees to at least 40% of workshop participants. 5.Provide an open, safe, and nurturing space for young people who are highly engaged in creative and intellectual endeavors. 6.Provide an open, safe, and nurturing space for young people who struggle with verbal and written expression. 7.Identify ways that creative youth who struggle academically can use their gifts to further their academic success.

Results: Writopia currently serves about 1,200 young writers across the country a year, 600 of whom come from lower-middle class to impoverished backgrounds. We are the most socio-economically diverse literacy-enrichment program in the city, and our young writers win more prestigious writing awards than any group of kids in the country including: * 2008, 2009, and 2010 Scholastic National Gold Medals; * 2009 and 2010 Best Play awards from Stephen Sondheim’s Young Playwrights; * 2010 Creativity and Citizenship Award and Scholarship from the National Constitution Center; and * 2009 and 2010 Random House Scholarship for high school seniors. Our teens have been published each year in Scholastic’s anthology of Best Teen Writing, while our younger writers have been published in Scholastic’s anthology of Best Middle School Writing and in Stone Soup, Teen Ink, and many others.

Target demographics: Kids 8 to 18. We are currently in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, and Washington, DC, but we are willing and able to open branches in communities that seek us out.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1,200

Geographic areas served: New York City, Westchester County, Brooklyn, Washington, DC, Los Angeles

Programs: Creative writing workshops for kids ages 8 to 18. Private sessions focused on expository writing, college and high school admissions.

Community Stories

10 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My 13-year-old son has been doing workshops at Writopia for four years. Hands down, it's the best writing program for kids in New York City. Kids benefit from hIgh expectations, a warm atmosphere, enthusiastic teachers - all working writers themselves - and supportive peers. It's the perfect environment in which to take creative risks and produce your own best work.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Writopia Lab is such a wonderful organization, which has also been so important and beneficial for my daughter, that I hardly know where to begin. The writing workshops themselves are inspiring, challenging and instructive while also being highly supportive of each member’s voice and particular take on the world. And the workshops are also fun. In addition to the variety of writing workshops offered, there are also frequent opportunities for students to read their work publicly, experience their theatrical works performed by actors, and to participate (with great success, I might add), in national writing competitions.
Perhaps more importantly, the program fosters a strong sense of community among its young writers which cuts across boundaries of age, background, and the specifics of each member’s interest in writing. The unique spirit of Writopia Lab begins with its director and flows down through teachers, administrative staff and the students, who range in age from high school to early elementary school. I have watched many students’ confidence grow along with their writing skills, and this owes as much to Writopia’s atmosphere of safety, enthusiasm and peer support as it does to anything didactic. As a parent of a Writopia Lab student, my assessment of the program is: thumbs up, big time.


2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son, 13, has participated in Writopia workshops for over a year. He enjoys writing and exchanging ideas with others. The workshop leaders are excellent. They are very patient and skilled writing educators. I have watched how they create a learning community among the group of writers, motivating each to reach for his or her full potential. The guided, gently-led exchange is reaffirming, confidence-building and inspirational. My son has grown more committed to making writing a part of his lifelong journey. This is happening at a time in the development of most teen boys when group-think pulls them in other directions. My son is writing his first novel through Writopia, and no one ever told him that he couldn't. Instead, his writing instructors have encouraged him to write and complete his novel. Writopia is an excellent community resource for young writers of all ages. As a parent, I am thankful for Writopia's involvement with my son.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've written three stories in Writopia workshops, and I have found the experience very rewarding. The teachers are helpful and supportive. When I came into my first workshop without any idea of what to write, Kathy helped my come up with a main character by looking at pictures. The workshops have all been fun, but the summer one was the best, because we got to play games and do writing exercises everyday.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughters, ages 8 and 10, participate in Writopia Lab and absolutely love every session. While both are wonderful oral storytellers, their interest in writing their stories has been limited. Writopia has changed that and writing is now "fun". The instructors are supportive, encouraging, non-judgmental, patient, and talented. The opportunity to read their work in front of others, both in class and at readings, has been enjoyed by my daughters and the peer feedback, in addition to instuctor feedback, is invaluable. We would recommend Writopia to both confident and hesitant writers with classes offering a stimulating experiece for all.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My 8 yo son was eager to write since before he really knew how to hold a pencil. At first, he had a hard time with the mechanics -- handwriting, spelling, etc. -- a source of frustration that made it hard for him to channel his wild imagination into words on a page. Joining Writopia was a liberating experience for him. With the help and support of the wonderful Writopia teachers in DC, he was able to shift focus to story-telling, and free his mind to pick up new skills: learning to research, structure, and craft evocative descriptions. The leap from his pre-Writopia writing to what he has produced at Writopia is unbelievable. And what do you know -- penmanship and spelling are catching up!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I came to Writopia someone curious about writing, but with little experience, and no with no outlet to express myself. From my very first workshop at Writopia, I could see why it was such a special place; there is a sense of comfort inspired by Rebecca and all of Writopia's teachers that is amplified by every student's powerful desire to read and be read. For me, Writopia was a place where I was encouraged to try new things, and always encountered adults who were willing to work long hours beyond what they were required to, to help me work through every single detail of my writing and become a better writer.

Writopia teachers not only helped me develop creative pieces that were recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, but also helped me develop my college essay. At Writopia, I was able to get a perspective on my writing that I couldn't get from adults at school or at home. Each time that I stepped into Writopia I got the sense that everyone there passionately wanted me to succeed as a writer, and I was inspired to pursue my writing to lengths that I never could have imagined.

1 Rachel B.

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a student at a large, public art high school, I was frustrated at the lack of emphasis on the Humanities, especially writing. I'm so glad I found Writopia. Over the past two years it's been the creative community I was looking for and more.

The reason Writopia works, besides the small, nurturing, and often laid-back workshops, is the people. It's not an organization so much as a group of really amazing, warm, and interesting individuals dedicated to saving the world... or finishing short stories, whatever. The workshop teachers as a rule are excellent, and the level of personal attention and dedication given by some of them is really incredible (naming no names... okay, Rebecca).

Everyone deserves to have her experiences and ideas valued and her self-expression encouraged. The people at Writopia have created a really special environment and that's what keeps so many students, including myself, coming back.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has thrived at Writopia. The teachers are all terrific of course. However they aren’t the only ones providing guidance. Writopia is a workshop. Its writers all help each other. Reading other writers and finding a way to provide constructive criticism is one of the best ways to improve one’s own writing.

Writopia provides a haven. The best writing demands a peculiar alchemy. Whether the writer is searching for an unusual image or exploring something deeply personal, that transformation only happens when the writer feels safe and supported. Then the grossest bits of our lives are spun like straw into gold.

I know that years from now, when these young writers have gone on to other pursuits, they will still remember a place with comfie sofas, lots of lap tops, cheese crackers, and the smiles of Rebecca, Dan, Jeremy, all the other instructors and the other young writers who are genuinely happy when someone gets a story or a poem just right.

As a parent, I’m so glad my daughter has a safe space to write and think, and develop her craft among her peers.
As a writer, I’m totally jealous.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter Katie has been working with Rebecca and has been a part of the Writopia Program for several years. Not only has she won Scholastic Writing Awards but she has found a venue to express herself in ways that the NYC private school she attends could NEVER do. Her love of writing has continued to grow over the years and the program provides kids of all ages the opportunity to be that writer that they aspire to be.

My Son Andy recently joined the program and while he is still to young to enter the Scholastic competitions I look forward to watching him grow through this wonderful program and to the awards I know he will win under their direction!!

The best thing about the program is the way they structure the cost. It provides for kids who normally would not be able to afford a program such as this to benefit as well. This makes for a wonderful learning environment!!