Writopia’s Longtime Partnership with ESPI

Each July is filled with our longtime deeply meaningful and exciting partnership camps! For a decade now,  Writopia has been running a special writing arts camp for dozens of creative and fun-loving children and teens at Homes for the Homeless’ Saratoga Family Inn. 

Starting seven years ago, we began working with 20-30 wonderful and gifted tweens from low-resourced areas who are selected by The Exam Schools Initiative (ESPI) as they prepare to apply to NYC’s specialized, magnet, highly selective high schools. It is a gift to us to brainstorm and help cultivate original short stories, films, and graphic novels with all of these beautiful young people who deserve all of the enrichment, support, and inspiration in the world. 

Students in a creative writing workshop and playing games during break time.

ESPI directors recently surveyed 50 of their alumni for feedback on how they may further benefit from ESPI support;  80% of them have named college essay support as a “top need.” So starting this summer, we have had the deep pleasure of working with some of our former middle school ESPI students, now highly engaged college applicants. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Affirmative Action, equal access to college access support systems has become even more urgent.    

Students in the graphic novel and filmmaking electives.

According to ESPI Founder, Andy McCord, “For ESPI students the Writopia week is a revelation. For students who have already begun to self-identify as readers and writers the experience is a homecoming. Many of these students continue on their own with Writopia in future years on scholarship. For other students, probably a majority, who are math kids who have never liked ELA, Writopia connects their innate verbal flair with a subject that had often seemed dull and restrictive in school. Our goals are explicitly academic, in that we seek to address the “excellence gap” that keeps many Black, Latinx, and low-income students out of the pipelines to schools like Hunter, Stuyvesant, and Bronx Science, but we find that a creative approach like Writopia is essential across disciplines to build deeper motivations that can underlie achievement at high levels as our students progress through school. At an organizational level, ESPI’s partnership with Writopia has been a model.”

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