This past Monday, June 18, was the first day of our Youth Leadership Camp. The Youth Leadership Camp is a week-long training for high school students who will be helping RAWK out with our 4th and 5th, and middle school summer camps. The leaders mentor the kids during their camps and also receive a stipend for their work after completing training and assisting with one camp.Read More
Hello RAWK folks!
We would like to introduce you to our new Executive Assistant Interns for the summer:
Karina Pantoja is from the small town of Paw Paw, MI and has just finished her second year of school at Kalamazoo College. She is pursuing an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing as well as a concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At K College she has served as the Assistant Editor of the school’s literary magazine The Cauldron along with being one of the Co-Directors of the Kalamazoo Poetry Collective and a Co-Leader of the mind-body-wellness group called K Team. Karina is thrilled to be a part of RAWK and to make connections with the youth in Kalamazoo county as they discover and enhance their skills in reading and writing. She believes that both reading and writing can serve as avenues for social change and relationship building with others and the self. Karina is looking forward to spending her summer at RAWK and exchanging music suggestions and puns with anyone willing.
Next up is Carolyn C Coulter, who can’t wait to get started at RAWK! She is from the Westside of Chicago, IL and came to Kalamazoo to study at Kalamazoo College in 2016. At Kalamazoo College she is Majoring in English with a concentration in Journalism. She also plans to minor in Theatre Arts because she loves the behind scenes of producing a play. In her free time she loves to watch Netflix and listen to R&B music. When reading, she tends to read anything that informs her about a topic in history in a engaging way because she soooo, doesn’t like history books. She can’t wait to learn more about the Kalamazoo community and grow with you guys!
We're in for a wild summer so it's the perfect timing for their arrival. Stop in and say hi!
Proud. Inspired. Motivated. Moved.
RAWK is honored to have been asked by The International Congress of Youth Voices to send two delegates to this year's inaugural event in August. Co-founded by Dave Eggers and Amanda Uhle, The International Congress of Youth Voices will bring together 100 students from around the world — United States, Iraq, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Syria, Ireland, Australia, Iceland, Burundi, Honduras, Cuba, Denmark, Venezuela, Zambia, and Nepal so far! As their website states, "The Congress was founded as a means to amplify their ideas and energy and to unite young people for a weekend of collaboration ... The event is designed to provide a path to leadership for all delegates and represents a continuum from students who have exhibited potential in local writing and tutoring programs to writers and activists who have already made notable achievements at a very young age."
Familiar with the work we do here in Kalamazoo with youth writing, we were asked to choose two delegates based on their commitment to leadership and social justice, as well as their passion and eloquence as writers. Both Destiné and Sydney have done just that over the years.
As a leader within RAWK, Destiné brings her heart to the table to help make real change in our community. She uses her words to connect with youth in beautiful ways, and to help grow our organization's commitment to equity and access by building a strong volunteer corps and influencing program and organizational development. She is driven, filled with empathy and compassion, ready to ask questions and find answers.
A poignant writer with a keen eye, Sydney has grown into a leader at RAWK, now serving on our Youth Advisory Council and is a Youth Mentor. Her charge for a more equitable world is clear both through her writing and in conversation. She is a dreamer and a doer, someone who is ready to roll up her sleeves and make change a reality.
We will be sure to keep you posted on this remarkable event as it unfolds. Until then, please join us in congratulating these two fantastic young women. This is huge, and we are thrilled to celebrate their contributions to our community and the adventure that lies ahead.
Welcome RAWK's New Executive Director!
Join us in welcoming Nicki Poer as our new Executive Director!
After a months-long search with an impressive pool of applicants with widely varied experience, we are thrilled to celebrate the dynamic addition of Poer to our organization. We are grateful for her energy and enthusiasm, confident that she is the leader RAWK needs in this new phase of our organization.
For the past nine years Nicki has served as the Director of Education & Outreach at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre where she created and runs the Academy of Theatre Arts which runs theatre education programs year-round for youth and adults. Her work at The Civic also includes partnerships with Kzoo Parks and Rec, Communities in Schools, and Kalamazoo Public Library. Originally from Illinois, she came to Kalamazoo from Connecticut where she was the Education Associate for Community-Based Programs at the Tony Award-Winning Hartford Stage. Nicki holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Montana and a BA from Millikin University. She found her passion for working with youth while touring through the US, Canada, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with the Missoula Children's Theatre.
Karen Trout, RAWK board president: "On behalf of the entire board of directors, I have full confidence that RAWK will be in excellent hands under Nicki's leadership. She brings enthusiasm, strong community connections, and proven administrative skills, all of which will ensure RAWK's unique ability to celebrate and amplify youth voices, and thereby contribute to youth success."
The work Poer has done in our community to provide platforms for youth to flourish creatively is a fitting compliment to the work we do at RAWK. The curriculum at the Academy of Theatre Arts has focused on emotional intelligence, empathy, and building self-confidence through performance and technical theatre skills.
"My passion for the community of Kalamazoo runs deep and I am honored to join RAWK to help the youth of Kalamazoo to continue to have safe spaces to find their voices, share their ideas, and express themselves," Poer shares. "RAWK has experienced immense growth over the past six years due to the dedication of an extremely skilled staff, supportive board of directors, loyal volunteers, and the community of Kalamazoo itself. As we look to the future, RAWK will continue to expand programming to adjust to the changing needs of Kalamazoo youth to help them succeed in an ever-changing world."
Nicki lives in Kalamazoo with her husband, Brad who is the theatre professor at Kellogg Community College and her children, a 7 year old daughter and 3 year old son. The family is completed by their 12 year old Australian Shepherd, Elwood who is named after the Blues Brother.
She will be joining the RAWK team in her official capacity at the beginning of July 2018. Yet another reason why this summer is going to RAWK!
By Henry Snapp, RAWK Youth Advisory Council Me
The first big project for RAWK’s Youth Advisory Council was a window display for the three empty panes in the front of the store. We wanted something that would draw attention to the store to give it a fun, welcoming look. So, we got an artist to help us develop a plan. Beverly Fitzpatrick, a self-taught Kalamazoo artist, graciously agreed to work with us.
When the RAWK YAC members sat down with Beverly for a brainstorm session, it was clear that we had big ideas. But with limited time, and frankly patience, we had to trim our ambitions down to something more reasonable.
“There were a lot of voices and thoughts to consider, and I just tried to distill them into something that caught the spirit of what I was hearing and could be executed under the time constraints,” Beverly said.
Beverly explained to us that she usually works with collages and sculpture.
“I like building things. Making collages is like building in two dimensions and I spend more time recently thinking about 3D possibilities,” Beverly said.
Through talking, drawing, free writing, and talking some more, we came up with the theme of “Voices.”
Because of Beverly’s experience with collages, we decided to make a collage of sorts out of thin paper rectangles glued to the glass with cornstarch and water, and then Beverly would create silhouettes of faces to be cut out of the paper.
Beverly took that idea home and left the RAWK YAC to work.
Through painstaking hours of cutting, mixing, and gluing, the process of making the collage was complete.
With an old school projector, Beverly projected her stencils onto our paper.
Through two backbreaking sessions of outlining and scraping, our work was complete.
The result is two faces facing towards each other, exclaiming silently with an empty pane in between. This empty slot is there for you to interact with and complete the picture.
“Now, the question of what something ‘means’ is seldom a concrete one in art. But to me, the piece is about trying to zero in on one's own original thoughts while being constantly influenced by other voices. It can be difficult to know where your own ideas begin while you take in so much information all the time, much of it designed to persuade,” said Beverly.
The window display is slated to change every few months as we partner with different local artists, as well as other RAWK programs and community non-profits, to keep the storefront fresh and entertaining. Our next window display will be a collaboration with local painter Malavika Rao and the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet.
Thank you, Beverly, for creating an awesome design and helping the RAWK YAC achieve its first goal of completing a community art-focused and collaboratory window display.
Dear RAWK families, youth, volunteers, partners, donors, collaborators, friends,
Way back in 2011, Anne and I began dreaming of RAWK. We had high hopes for what could be, and now (with hard work and unequivocal support from our community over the past 6 years) we’re living in what is as we celebrate milestones: a writing center, a storefront, a publishing center, expanding staff, growing programs and partnerships. 2018 marks the beginning of RAWK’s 7th year as an organization. We continue to dream big, to set high goals to better serve youth in our community.
It is with a grateful heart, swelling with pride and hope, that I share this news. I will be stepping away from RAWK in my role as executive director. It’s an exciting time for both me and for RAWK, as I leave to pursue opportunities as an author/illustrator, and RAWK begins a new chapter here at 802 S. Westnedge. RAWK’s transition moving beyond our co-founders began last year when Anne stepped away from RAWK. Let me assure you it is a sign of a healthy, sustainable organization, that this is happening. I keep saying we’re stepping away, and that feels misleading. Really, we’ll never step away, as Anne and I will always have the honor of being RAWK’s co-founders. Our board of directors has assembled a transition committee to ensure a seamless process as we look for someone to take over the reigns who is devoted to RAWK’s mission, vision, and place in our community.
It has been a privilege to lead such a remarkable group of people who enthusiastically show up to do the work—our board, staff and volunteers know the power and importance in valuing youth voice. Through RAWK, I have met so many inspiring people in our community, committed to literacy, youth, and equity. Anne and I often gush about how we are forever changed by this work—by knowing all of you and seeing youth voices celebrated and amplified in our community.
I am confident that equity, access, joy, and creativity will continue to be the guiding constellation for our organization. I will forever be involved with RAWK as a cheerleader, a patron, and an ambassador, not only for RAWK but for the youth we serve. Thank you for the love and support over the years. I’m looking forward to seeing what fantastic things RAWK continues to accomplish in our community.
With a heart full of gratitude,
RAWK is excited to announce that we are offering all of our programs at no cost to students! Up until this point we have offered all of our programs on a pay-what-you-can basis. As we continue looking for ways to grow and build access and equity within our community, making this step makes a lot of sense for us as an organization. We celebrate diverse voices of the youth in our community, and are honored to provide spaces to cultivate growth for the youth we serve within our programming. As an organization that strives to provide opportunities for youth to read and write in fun and innovative ways, we want to be able to give all of our youth the opportunity to learn and grow with us.
We are grateful to PFC's Change for Change Program for kicking off this initiative with us this summer. The People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo Change for Change Program gives all customers the option to round your bill to the nearest dollar every time you shop. You can even tell the cashier the amount you'd like to donate when you check out.
All of the money raised goes towards one outstanding organization at a time. Recipients in the past have been Loaves & Fishes, YWCA, Freedom Schools, Project X, and Fire. The PFC's Change for Change Program has raised up to almost $12,000 total so far this year! For the month of August, RAWK has graciously been selected to be PFC's Change for Change recipient. You can support RAWK this month by shopping at PFC Grocery & Deli. Turn your change into free literacy programming by rounding up your bill to the nearest dollar with every visit to our local Co-op — let's work together to help our youth RAWK for free!
We are grateful for a supportive, generous community. Please consider investing in RAWK On! youth RAWK free, ensuring all young voices are celebrated and amplified in our community.
ALSO, BE SURE TO RAWK THE VOTE THROUGH AUG 25!
Doing good feels good.
In the next 9 days, beginning Wednesday August 16, you can do good in a big way that takes a small amount of effort. RAWK the Vote for us, put us in the top 40 so we can win $25,000 from State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist program.
Because of the good you do, RAWK is about to open a literacy center in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo. In the Vine neighborhood, to be precise. If we win this $25,000, it will buy books, publishing equipment, computers, and essentials to stock our literacy center in downtown Kalamazoo. More details soon, but first …
Because of the good you do, RAWK will be able to offer literacy support at no cost to students and families. That’s right! No cost. Everyone deserves support for learning, regardless of their ability to pay.
Because of the good you do, more and more young people will advocate for themselves and hear their voices amplified out amongst their community.
Here are the steps:
1. Log in here August 16: https://neighborhoodassist.com/
2. Vote for RAWK 10 times each day from August 16 – 25. (Do it Wednesday and then set an alarm to remind yourself every day after.)
3. Share it with everyone you know and encourage them to be part of this extraordinarily good thing.
4. Feel good about winning $25,000 toward youth literacy.
RAWK the Vote with us every day until August 25. Keep us in the top 40 so we can win $25,000 for youth literacy.
Being a small non-profit organization, we are often in need of help to accomplish the many tasks at hand. We are grateful to the Community Building Internship program through the Center for Civic Engagement at Kalamazoo College. This is our second year working with their program, and benefitting from the help of a summer intern.
We're thrilled to introduce you to Destine Price, our 2017 summer intern. Working with someone who grew up in Kalamazoo and whose heart is devoted to community and voice has been fun, to say the least. To say even more, Destine is inspiring. She comes to work eager to dig in, happy to take on any and all tasks asked of her, and with an honest desire to learn. She is all about collaboration and open communication. We laugh a lot, too. This summer has been HUGE for us in many ways, and her hands and heart for the work we do (both behind the scenes and with the students we've served this summer) has been essential for us. If you see Destine around Kalamazoo, be sure to give her a high five. Grateful to work alongside such a creative soul.
We asked Destine a few questions (and of course she answered in the most poetic, beautiful Destine-kind-of-way):
How are you today?
Today I am accomplished. I rose from fluffy white sheets at 5 am sharp and transported to work within warm, wet breezes of countryside dew. I glided into the calm stories of openness at the Reality Factory and was struck with purpose. Today I feel very overwhelmed having worked two jobs and having to prepare for the next. I am thankful however, after shifting and moving this body, I have a grounding space to recoup mentally. So today I am overwhelmingly thankful to being accomplished!
Where'd you grow up?
I grew up in Kalamazoo for most of my life, and for a short period in Pontiac,Michigan.
What do you do now?
I search. I’m currently in the process of searching for myself again in everything that I do. I find happiness in words. I find joy in music. I find peace in water. I see potential in the upcoming school year at Kalamazoo College. I find stability in the work that I do to support my health and my family’s. Right now I am putting much work into myself for positive outcomes in the near future.
Why not? Why not be a part of an organization whose mission compliments my desire to see a change within youth in our community? After reading RAWK’s mission statement and purpose, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this in some way. I have the capacity to take in so much knowledge and experience in this point of my life and I felt as if RAWK was the perfect place to begin. Expressing authentic voice holds a large space in my heart and working with RAWK steadily fills that space.
What's your role with RAWK this summer?
At RAWK I help with just about everything! I play a role in organizing, preparation, fundraising, and brainstorming. I help with coordinating workshops before they begin at times, I help to research and draft grants, and help to do needed organizing. In my eyes, I serve as a helping hand to an organization I love to be a part of everyday.
3 important words:
Authentic, Justice, Care
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I see myself doing something that I love. From going from undecided to a decided major at K, to launching projects of my own within my community. I see myself finding the passion that I have been craving and working hard to make that vision come true.
We know, we know. Sometimes it's hard to give yourself an excuse to chuck it all and spend the day reading a great book. Sometimes we think to ourselves how one solid uninterrupted day of brainstorming or drafting or revising really might give us some wind in our sails, the momentum we need to bring more energy into the rest of our lives. But there are errands to be run, cleaning up around the house to be done, preparing for that birthday party or finding the screens before spring's here.
And that's why we've drummed up a solution: Write On! RAWK On!
We're offering you the opportunity not only take a day and getting lost in words — yours and/or others — but to support the growth and development of young minds and ideas in the process. Here's how it works:
1. Commit. Decide you're going to give yourself (and the rest of us) just one day (and not even a full one!), March 18 from 10 am — 4 pm. You can do that with us, at our rocking (and RAWKing) party at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, or wherever you'd find that time most valuable. Home? Coffee shop? Our reserved quiet location? At a gathering with friends? On a hillside under a tree?
2. Register. Sign up as an individual participant or as part of a team, then grab a pledge sheet and let that support roll in. Share the pledge sheet on social media or via email so that others can support you in your efforts and simultaneously support the young minds and voices of those RAWK serves.
3. Show up. Join us at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts for creative adventure, special guests, and prizes, or stake out a post wherever you feel inspired. Wherever you wanna RAWK, block out that time to dive in: to words and ideas, to a book or a poem or any writing project that's been gnawing at you, to writing prompts we provide you for the day if you need a little nudge.
Your participation in Write On! RAWK On! helps nurture a community of lifelong literacy support, by providing scholarships for writing camps, publishing student work, growing a network of engaged youth and educators and volunteers, and so much more. If spending the day writing and reading is not for you, you can still feel great about investing in young minds and voices by making a donation, volunteering, or sponsoring.
Give yourself, and us, just this one day. Give your brain an adventure and your community an investment. Write On! RAWK On!
As we're revving up for the second year of RAWK Writers' Room at Maple Street Middle School we want to shine a spotlight on two volunteers who really make it all happen. Thank you to these two bright and caring people for sharing your time with our students. Without further ado, here are Nicole and Doug!Read More
Happy New Year! OK, it’s still 2016, but once you’ve been a student, the beginning of the school year feels like beginning again each year. You’ll find a new slate of fall workshops on our calendar with new (and dear, returning) facilitators, and we’ll also have new opportunities to read with us as we emphasize the R in RAWK. And we have a new RAWKstar in our midst, so we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Marcetti, our new communications associate.Read More
We're still basking in the glow of our RAWK READS! event last night at Bookbug—always proven to be a beautiful reflection of our summer that's filled to the brim with writing, creating, and planning. Our students sharing their work with an eager audience is integral to our core beliefs, as we're always striving to celebrate and amplify youth voices. While last night was the perfect close to our busiest summer on the books, our office is far too quiet today. We want to be congratulating each other and sharing sweet anecdotes from the night, but we're missing one person. Last night also marked the last day for Anja, our summer intern.Read More
Kalamazoo’s book enthusiasts are coming together and the result is beautifully unique hand-bound books with pages that share the voices of talented RAWKstars. This summer, The Kalamazoo Book Arts Center has kindly welcomed RAWK students into their studios to learn about the arts of papermaking and printmaking.Read More
It’s almost here! Join us on Thursday night as we celebrate our summer workshop students at the 4th annual RAWK READS event. The celebration will mark the release of this year’s published anthology, Bookworms, Banana Peels, and Other Ideaing. It's a remarkable moment every year when our summer workshop students see their words in print—an impactful confirmation of both their individual voices, as well as the power of the collective voice of youth that we work with every summer. At our event on Thursday, they take it to another level of pride, and our young writers will read their selected pieces from the anthology in front of you, the adoring audience.
Not only do you get to hear RAWKstar poems and stories, but there will be new RAWK merchandise available for purchase. Exciting stuff, we know!
What better place to host us than our local indie bookshop? As always, RAWK READS! is generously hosted by Bookbug, a spectacular independent bookstore committed to curating, discussing, and celebrating new books. Bookbug works with local sources of books to provide full selections to the community and put books in the hands of every child. We value the support they offer to Kalamazoo-area schools, teachers, community leaders, and our organization. RAWK is endlessly proud to have Bookbug founders and owners, Joanna Parzakonis and Derek Molitor, serving on our boards of directors. Their thoughtfulness, generosity and expertise help us grow as an organization and amplify youth voices. Quite literally, in fact, this Thursday!
Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to hang out in an incredibly fun and cozy bookstore, celebrate young voices of Kalamazoo, and pick up a copy of their newly published work. Can’t wait to see you there!
Can’t be with us Thursday, but want to support young voices?
Our online shop will be updated soon. And, as always, we greatly appreciate your support!
Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) is thrilled to share a closer look at our dreamy partnership with Open Roads Bike Program! The youth development bicycling program is a Kalamazoo native non-profit organization devoted to teaching hands-on bike mechanic skills, along with social skills, that empower students to build successful futures and create positive changes within the community. They share our mission to support the growth and learning of Kalamazoo youth through the cultivation of critical skills, and we are incredibly proud to join forces with them.
RAWK and Open Roads' collaboration — RAWKin' ROADS — just finished two weeks of camp for middle school and high school youth. Stories and poems were written. Bikes were built. And now we get to share all about it with you!Read More
This summer, we are grateful for sunshine, fresh notebooks, summer reading lists, and of course, RAWK summer writing workshops! Our summer programming would not be possible without the energy, knowledge, and commitment of the RAWK facilitators. They teach the power of words and celebrate the voice of each RAWKstar. Meet them here!Read More
Our growing list of RAWK programs runs rich with opportunities for students (preschool - high school) to exercise their voices, to fall in love with words, to understand the power of writing and reading in their lives. We'd love to share more about what our Thematic Writing Workshops are all about, and how you (or your friends and neighbors) can get involved. We believe an invested community is essential for the success of all students.Read More
Hunkered down these past couple of months under a blanket of winter, we put our wee heads together and devised this beautiful new website! There are so many exciting developments to this new site that we think will serve all Friends of RAWK more efficiently.Read More
Now is a time for resolutions, and for revolutions. How will we grow in the coming year, and what do we hope to bring about?Read More