National Writing Project

NWP to Fund New Project Outreach Sites

By: NWP Staff
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 5, No. 4
Date: September-October 2000

Summary: NWP will support a new cohort of Project Outreach sites beginning in the summer of 2001.

 

Over the past four years, NWP's Project Outreach Network (PON) has brought together teachers from a diverse set of regional cultures, Puerto Rico to Alaska, to take on the task of improving equity at their sites and throughout their service areas. In July, as the generous support from the DeWitt Wallace-Readers' Digest Fund came to a close, leaders from the first generation of Project Outreach sites met at Lake Tahoe, California, to discuss ways to extend their focus throughout the national network. Their ongoing efforts have inspired the NWP to support a new cohort of eight Project Outreach sites. Although the new sites have not yet been selected, leaders of the original sites are already discovering ways to pass on what they've learned.

"Project Outreach has really had an impact on our work in Puerto Rico," said Carmen Quinones of the Borinquen Writing Project. "It is very exciting that more sites will now be able to join the network. We are all eager to welcome new colleagues."

Project Outreach is a network of sites committed to taking the time to focus on questions of equity and diversity in their site work. Joining Project Outreach is an intense commitment for a site, but one that can have lasting benefits, according to Gloria Dukes of the Coastal Georgia Writing Project. "We're having deeper, more honest conversations at our site now because of Project Outreach, and that shifts the way we see our work."

PON sites share a process of forming local leadership teams to work on three objectives at their sites:

  • increasing the number of teachers of low-income youth participating in sustained professional development
  • improving the professional development they offer and making it more relevant to teachers in low-income communities
  • increasing the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity in project leadership so that teacher knowledge can more closely refect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the local community.

Following a yearlong self-study process, with the support of the PON community, each site discovers different ways of meeting these goals. "It was a rare gift to be given the time to really reflect on the whole of our writing project site and to pose hard questions for ourselves," said Lynette Herring-Harris of the Mississippi State University Writing/Thinking Project. After taking the time to reflect and to study the site and its service area, and to work with colleagues not yet affiliated with the writing project, most PON sites see new and deeper ways to approach PON goals.

"At our site we kept asking ourselves `who is missing from our site?' And we started to see a long list of teachers including special education teachers, teachers in alternative schools, and teachers in ESL programs," said Rochelle Ramay of the Northern California Writing Project. "Once we saw that and began to meet them and understand their interests, a whole new area of programming opened up for us." The Northern California Writing Project now runs institutes for teachers in alternative settings, and some have become summer institute participants.

"This is an incredible group of teachers now leading the effort to carry on the work of Project Outreach," said PON director Elyse Eidman-Aadahl. "They are excited to welcome new sites into the network. It provides a very particular type of opportunity for sites to develop leadership and think about some of the most important issues we face as a country."

Information on PON and invitations to join will be mailed to every site in October. Roughly eight sites will be added to the network next year to begin a three-year PON cycle of self-study and program development in the summer of 2001.

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