Young Authors Follow Learning Pathway to Publication

During the finale of the 19th Annual Story Week Festival of Writers, presented by Columbia College Chicago, five talented ninth and tenth graders shared their work with a rapt audience in the YOUmedia space of Harold Washington Library Center on Saturday. The sequence of opportunities that led them there began with their participation in the Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) Young Author Playlist. It will culminate with the publication of their stories in HYPERTEXT Magazine. This is the first of several learning pathways CCOL is developing to meet a variety of professional interests.

“We all know how much young talent is in Chicago,” said Sybil Madison-Boyd of Digital Youth Network at DePaul University, which heads up CCOL. “Pathways are about building those skills, fueling those passions, and connecting youth to mentors that can guide them to the ‘I am’ moment that these young people are having today. I am a writer.”

The first of its kind in Chicago, the Young Author Playlist (YAP) provides youth and teens with the opportunities to practice and share their creative writing and journalism skills, discover new spaces and places citywide to connect with other young writers, and develop a publication-ready collection of work. As participants progress as authors, they are granted access to privileges like touring Chicago newsrooms, shadowing at the Poetry Foundation, working with local professional writers, having professional videos created about their work, and – the ultimate achievement – publication.

Students who were introduced to YAP through their Gear Up program at Northeastern Illinois University chose one of the five tracks – Fiction, Journalism, Non-Fiction, Poetry or Script Writing – and engaged in the corresponding online challenges. As they completed the activities of each step, they earned digital badges that unlocked the chance to win a full scholarship to a writing workshop. Chosen by the quality of the work they submitted, select teens met with HYPERTEXT Studio Director Christine Rice for two months on Saturdays. Only those who made it through the course earned a spot on the Story Week stage, as well as the opportunity to see their work published.

“These young writers burn so brightly. It was magical to see their development over the eight weeks I spent with them,” Rice said.

Michael Glenn of Roberto Clemente Community Academy, Isaiah Flores and Alan Perez of Solorio Academy High School, Angel Potts of Corliss High School and Fabian Lomeli of Bogan High School said that some of the most powerful advice Rice gave them was to visualize what you’re writing and that details make a vivid picture. “It’s an opportunity that would’ve been dumb to pass up,” they all agreed.

Of the 28 Story Week events that occurred between March 15th and 21st this was the only one featuring youth. A video of each student reading his or her work will be embedded in the digital badges they earned, which are stored in their CCOL accounts and can be shared with colleges and prospective employers.

“You are in the same festival as these authors,” Story Week Artistic Director Eric May said to them, holding up an impressive list of award winning novelists and playwrights. “There are some big names here!”

Not only did these teens participate in the same festival as internationally acclaimed writers, but they also shared the microphone with Cyn Vargas, an accomplished and published author from Chicago, on Saturday wrapping up the festival along with her.

After proudly filming the reading of his son, Isaiah, Irad Flores of South City said, “This is a great opportunity for the students to develop writing skills and share what’s on their minds. It gives them the freedom to express what they’re going through and imagining.”

High School and Middle School youth are invited to participate in the Young Author Playlist. Visit http://ChicagoCityofLearning.org/YAP to get started! 


Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) is a city-wide, year-round program that focuses on connected learning in which skills are garnered in the process of actively engaging in art, science, writing, game playing, design and more. Digital badges are awarded to recognize skills garnered. CCOL is led by the City of Chicago and Digital Youth Network at DePaul University and is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Best Buy and Comcast. Youth 4-24 have a free account waiting for them at http://ChicagoCityofLearning.org

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