‘Things in the Middle’ represents Confluence Academy-Old North, StudioSTL
‘Things in the Middle’ represents Confluence Academy-Old North, StudioSTL
Posted on 04/04/2013
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ON studentsEvery writer dreams of being a published author. Whether in a book to call his own, or in a collection of writings, being a published author is an accomplishment.


Students at Confluence Academy-Old North will realize an accomplishment with their book, “Things in the Middle.” The book is the culmination of a writing program with StudioSTL and features works from 20 students in fifth through eighth grade. StudioSTL is a nonprofit writing center dedicated to helping kids, age 6-18, build their writing skills.


Old North will host a book release party on Saturday, April 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the lower library. The young writers will get a complimentary copy. Extra copies will be sold for $5 at the event.


The writing program started in early February. On Saturday mornings in the library at Confluence Academy-Old North, writing mentors from University of Missouri-St. Louis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and other area colleges worked with students. The sessions focused on poetry, imagery, description and voice. The students were given journals to keep their pieces and to work on their writing at home. They also used the journals at school.


Catherine Todd is a kindergarten teacher at Old North, and also serves as an intervention teacher and enrichment tutoring coordinator. She said that Old North got involved with StudioSTL “to improve writing skills and to help influence Missouri Assessment Program scores. The program helps students be creative in their writing and helps them get their thoughts and ideas down on paper.”


“This is the first time StudioSTL had the opportunity to work with Confluence Academy-Old North,” said Beth Ketcher, executive director, StudioSTL. “We felt honored to be part of a dedicated learning community that understood the power and value of giving youth a voice and an opportunity to be heard.”


Fifth-grade students Dashawn Lyles and Jakayla Armstrong are two of the writers featured in “Things in the Middle.” Dashawn wrote poetry, and Jakayla wrote poems and a short story.


“My first poem is about love. My second poem is about struggles in the streets,” said Dashawn. He explained that love is “when you care about somebody you like a lot, like the Twilight stories.” One of his poems is titled ‘Love and Teeth.’


“I wrote about love, about friendship, and about how to take responsibility for your actions,” said Jakayla. She defined love as “giving your heart to somebody, to anybody who needs it because you’re sharing it.” One of her poems is called ‘Heart My Love.’


Jakayla and Dashawn are looking forward to the book release party. He thinks the book will get him noticed by others, and she is curious to see how the book turned out. They both said that they have always liked writing, and now they like it even more.  


Todd said there is a noticeable change in the students who participated in the workshops.


“Their teachers have noticed that the students are able to retrieve more information and they can get the information down on paper in a more organized manner. The students are also more creative when writing pieces,” said Todd.


“Things in the Middle” represents a partnership among several organizations – StudioSTL, the Old North Restoration Group, UMSL College of Education and SIUE – and support for the Old North St. Louis neighborhood.


StudioSTL is relocating its writing center to Crown Square in Old North St. Louis.


“We wanted to offer our writing and publishing programs to the Old North community before our center opens in June. Confluence Academy-Old North seemed to be a perfect fit,” said Ketcher.


StudioSTL has published four bound anthologies written by teens, said Ketcher. The students at Confluence were “inspired by the work of Wellston seventh graders, who are now high school seniors, who wrote ‘How My Life Has Been Since I Got Older.’”


Ketcher said students who get involved in StudioSTL demonstrate a greater willingness to participate in writing, have more confidence in self-expression and enhance their critical thinking skills.


StudioSTL has published anthologies with students from Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, University City High School and Curtis Bishop Middle School. The organization also works with the St. Louis Internship Program, College Bound and other community groups. The sale of their publications helps fund the writing programs.