Deerfield students visit UMass Writing Center

Local high schools establish writing centers


Collegian File Photo

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

As part of a $15,000 Public Service Endowment Grant, the Writing Center at the University of Massachusetts hosted 10 students from Deerfield’s Frontier Regional School on Wednesday morning.

The students, who are currently in a seminar to develop a writing center at their own school, spent the morning observing tutoring sessions and participating in a conversation with writing center director Anna Rita Napoleone and assistant director Robin Garabedian. The students, who are sophomores and juniors, were able to take their experience in the classroom and see it in practice at the W.E.B. DuBois Library.

“It was really constructive to see, physically, how the writing center works,” Blanche Reading, a student at FRS, said. “It’s interesting to see it in practice.”

Napoleone received the grant earlier in 2019 as part of an effort to bring writing centers to secondary schools in the area, including FRS, Athol-Royalston Middle School, Tantasqua Regional High School and Greenfield High School. As the director of the Western Mass Writing Project, or WMWP, Napoleone hopes to strengthen alliances between the university and local high schools and communities.

FRS English teachers Melissa Strelke and Nicole Henderson, both UMass graduates, are developing the writing center, which is planned to open in mid-November. Henderson, who worked in the University Writing Center for three years, said she looked forward to changing the “culture of writing” at the high school level.

The WMWP is a local site of the National Writing Project, which provides professional development and literacy leadership programs for teachers. According to its website, the WMWP is sponsored by the department of English and College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

When asked about why they were interested in serving in a new writing center, students focused on how important it was to help their fellow classmates.

Student Jessica Recore noted her personal experience being tutored in a middle school program when she was struggling in class.

“It’s a way to give back,” she said.

Genesis Locke, another FRS student, was “really inspired” by the peer-to-peer tutoring offered by the University’s Writing Center, adding that working in a high school writing center would improve tutors’ writing skills as well.

Reading agreed, saying, “[I can] see, in person, the mistakes that I’m making and correct them.” She added she looked forward to being able to personalize lessons to the students she was working with.

Other students mentioned their interest in improving their ability to communicate and give feedback, or a potential interest in coming to UMass in the future to work with the Writing Center there.

According to Maddy Leone, a student in the FRS seminar, the visit informed everything they read about tutoring and operating similar writing centers.

“I’m really excited for the help we’ll have from the UMass writing center,” she said.

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @KathrineEsten.