Katie McCleary, the writer goddess who is the executive director of the Sacramento organization 916 Ink, talks a lot about giving young people a voice.
Here is what 916 Ink is about in their own words:
916 INK seeks to excite young people with language, particularly written language; to instill in children a sense of joy, wisdom, whimsy, and wonder with words; to celebrate syntax; and to support teachers, schools, and libraries in their efforts to share the benefits of reading and writing with all area youth.
Check them out here:
I want to tell you what I think about when I hear that 916 Ink gives young people who feel marginalized in school a voice:
A few years ago I started every morning outside my classroom with a group of young men struggling in life. For a few minutes before the school day began, we’d hang out and exchange pleasantries, ideas, and jokes. I think about my former students a lot, these morning boys.
One day one of these young men called out to me,
Mrs. Wanket. I need your voice. I need you to speak for me.
I stopped him in his tracks. How could that be? I asked him. You have a voice of your own.
I don’t know how to use it, he said.
My student’s comment broke my heart as it refined my sense of purpose in the work. I was teaching, but he wasn’t learning if he thought he needed me to speak for him. Luckily we had the rest of the school year for him to become confident in everything he had to say in his own powerful, righteous voice.
This young man is at a UC now. Getting ready to graduate. He probably does not remember our conversation.
As for me, I will never forget it. I carry his message with me every day in the classroom, but I can only reach the ones in front of me.
I talk a lot. I write even more. I get sick of the sound of my own voice on the daily.
But the work of introducing students to their own voices? That’s the work of God.
Thank God for 916 Ink.
To get involved, donate here.