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Life Lessons: Writing your way to a better future

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 10 2014 04:00:00 AM CDT

Life Lessons: Writing your way to a better future

Every day, more than 8,000 high school students drop out. Many are uninspired and unimpressed by what they learn in the classroom.

Now, one woman has made it her mission to inspire girls to embrace a subject that lets them express themselves in writing, through a program that just won an award from the White House.

A pen, paper, and an idea are what some young girls say excite them.

"Our whole philosophy is to let a girl have some time to write and say what she thinks,” says WriteGirl Executive Director Keren Taylor.

Formerly a sales executive, Taylor started the nonprofit WriteGirl to give young women an outlet for expressing themselves.

"The public schools don’t have the ability to attend to the creative needs of our young people," Taylor explains.

The girls are paired with professional writers who serve as mentors. They meet once a week and attend monthly creative writing workshops.

Amanda Gorman is 16 years old and she's writing a book with the guidance of her mentor Michelle Chahine.

“I'm so inspired by her energy and her confidence,” says Chahine.

Gorman has a speech impediment, but writing has given her a new way to communicate.

"I found this other medium where I could be myself,” says Gorman. “I don't have to worry if [I’m] getting the letter right, so it granted me this new power that I didn’t know before."

This year, 350 girls are participating in WriteGirl.

Most are from high-density schools and are at risk for dropping out.

They all have the opportunity to submit their writing for publication and 100 percent of graduating seniors enter college.

Jackie Uy, also 16 years old, says her writing has improved, thanks to the help of her mentor Katie Geyer.

"The main thing that she’s taught me is to have self-confidence,” says Uy.

"Every time I read something that Jackie wrote, I’m almost in tears,” says Geyer.

It’s a program that’s building confidence with the written word.

The Write Girl mentors include journalists, screenwriters, authors, poets, and executives from various backgrounds.

Taylor is a poet and songwriter herself.

Last November, WriteGirl received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House.

Jackie and her mentor were chosen as representatives and got to meet Michelle Obama.