On any other day of the week, Miranda Moreno, a sixth-grader at Lexington Elementary in Pomona, can be found daydreaming about mermaids and pirates. But on Mondays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Moreno is putting her imagination into practice, penning stories at the Weekly Writing Workshop (3W) held at The Hive.
3W, a partner of the Claremont non-profit Uncommon Good, runs a 9-10 week long writing workshop for students grades four to nine in both the fall and spring semesters. The program is designed for underprivileged students from Claremont, Pomona, Montclair, and Upland, according to Elena Dypiangco SC '19, who serves as one of two student coordinators of the program.
Dypiangco’s position involves drafting lesson plans and directing activities for nearly 20 students within the fourth through sixth-grade age group. Each semester brings a new theme for its students, who participate in a free-write, engage in a lesson led by student mentors, and work on the culminating goal of the series: one long piece of writing that will be published and distributed in a program-wide literary magazine at the end of the semester.
“The theme for this semester is scriptwriting,” said Dypiangco, who has been involved with 3W for two semesters. “We’re teaching the kids the fundamentals whether it be for plays, TV shows, movies, and giving them the toolset to tackle this alternative form of writing.” She also noted that this semester’s culminating project asks students to produce a script with three short scenes.
Chris Angel, a sixth grader from Vejar Elementary School in Pomona, has been coming to 3W for two years, and he says his favorite part is the opportunity to experiment with different types of writing than those normally taught in school.
“I really didn’t know how to write a script when we first started and what it meant, but now I am getting the hang of it,” Angel said. “I like to watch movies so it’s cool to be able to see where they come from when I write.”
Aliyah Qurashi PO '20 echoed Angel’s sentiments, emphasizing that the individual attention and resilience enforced in the program exposes students to alternative writing styles in a comfortable environment.
“Sometimes school isn’t necessarily a safe space to make mistakes or learn at a slower place,” she said, adding that most of the students come from families where English is not their first language. “Their parents do not speak English fluently and might not be able to help as much in subjects like English and Writing.”
At 3W, students are connected with a mentor from the Claremont Colleges that stays with a group of four to five other students for the entirety of the semester and gets to know each of their mentees on a personal level. Mentors are uniquely positioned to observe the students’ progress, and are able to provide much more attention than a classroom teacher.
Georgia Godlee-Campbell SC '19, who has been a student mentor for three semesters, has had the opportunity to watch returning students grasp new concepts and become more engaged in the classroom environment over multiple semesters.
“One mentee of mine in particular describes herself as quite shy,” Godlee-Campbell said. “But over the course of the past two semesters, I've witnessed her really come into her own and gain confidence with public speaking which has been amazing.”
Dypiangco believes that the students’ learning extends far beyond writing and confidence-building, but that the program builds a curiosity inspired by accessibility to a college campus.
“Interacting on a weekly basis with college students is a big component,” she said. “I get questions every week about Scripps and my college experience. The kids are just genuinely curious about what it is like to be in college, so hopefully that will continue when it comes time for them.”
Moreno, though, is content simply to imagine elaborate stories of pirates and mermaids searching for gold, and she doesn’t think much about the future. She just knows she loves to write.
“In fiction, it’s like your own world, you get to create everything, you have a power to make things as you like,” she said. But the best part for Moreno is holding up her finished product.
“It feels good. It kind of feels like when you make artwork. You look at it and you admire it. But instead of looking at it, you read it and feel proud.”