Emerson pre-college program points in write direction

by Maya Pontone / Beacon Staff • October 12, 2016

1476337633 broll still002.png
The EmersonWRITES workshops focus on creativity, clarity, and form.
Courtesy of Christopher Grant
The EmersonWRITES workshops focus on creativity, clarity, and form.
Courtesy of Christopher Grant

Despite having only just begun his first year of college, freshman Antonio Weathers is no stranger to the Emerson campus.

In high school, Weathers attended EmersonWRITES—a writing program offered to junior high and high school students in the Boston area. The program consists of poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and multi-genre classes that run from October to February, introducing students to different aspects of creative writing in contrast to the academic writing typically taught in schools, said Christopher Grant, one of the program’s coordinators and associate director in enrollment management.

Weathers took the EmersonWRITES poetry classes for three years, after a high school teacher recommended it to him as a sophomore. While the program helped him develop his skills as a writer, it also boosted his confidence and provided him a group of friends outside of school who shared a common interest in writing, Weathers said.

“I had a group of friends who I could always show my poetry to, and they would always be cool listening to me, like an audience at home,” he said.

The program’s classes are taught by many of Emerson’s First-Year Writing Program graduate students, Grant said. He said this allows them to connect with younger students through sharing their own writing experiences.

“The opportunity to teach in EmersonWRITES was one of the things that made me apply to Emerson for my MFA,” said Breauna Roach, a graduate student entering her second year teaching poetry classes in the program.

Roach also teaches introduction to college writing and research writing in Emerson’s FYWP, and poetry at Berklee College of Music. She said she felt that her experience with the program helped her grow as a writer as well: it introduced her to the different perspectives of younger students and helped her reassess her own knowledge and writing.

EmersonWRITES, originally developed by both the Office of Enrollment and the FYWP, was initiated in response to the quality of college freshmen admissions essays, said Grant, who used to work in the admissions office.

After reading applicants’ essays, it became clear to the office that many students needed help preparing for the expectations of Emerson’s writing courses, he said.

As a result, the college reached out to young writers through their high school teachers and guidance counselors in order to strengthen their skills and better prepare them for college, Grant said.

“It was just a great way to connect with students and have them talk about things that are going on in their community, things that were going on outside in the world; just being a creative outlet, but also helping them to become better writers,” Grant said.

In addition to the four writing classes, the program offers various college prep and financial aid workshops to give prospective students a better sense of the application process, said Grant. Unlike other college programs, he said EmersonWRITES gives students advice from the college perspective, providing information on letters of recognition, college essays, and scholarships.

While the program does help attract students interested in writing to apply to Emerson College, it also helps other students, no matter where they choose to go to school, to prepare for college applications, Grant said.

In Weathers’ case, the EmersonWRITES program made Emerson College his first choice when he applied to college. Having experienced the school’s writing program first-hand, he said he was already familiar with it and knew Emerson would be the right college for him.

The EmersonWRITES program begins its first class of the year on Oct. 15.