The recent political climate, combined with the dreary weather, had me a bit discouraged heading into 2017. Last month, I took a few hours out of my day to volunteer with one of Castle’s community partners, WriteBoston, and was surprised that what I feared would be an interruption in a busy work day turned into an overwhelmingly encouraging afternoon.
Last summer, during The Castle Group’s Spirit Week celebrating our 20th anniversary, we kicked off our relationship with WriteBoston, an organization that highlights, develops and supports the writing skills of Boston Public School students. Our partnership continued with the opportunity to assist in the editing process for the latest edition of Teens in Print, a publication, “uniting the city’s teens to create an outlet to inform, communicate, and provide positive change through written expression.” It’s a unique opportunity for students to see their writing published and share their stories with their BPS peers and local communities.
A few members of the Castle team sat down with Carla Gualdron, Teens in Print program director, and Julie Biegner, who manages operations improvement and outreach for Teens in Print. Together we read through and edited a number of student stories, providing feedback on grammar, content, and organization of the pieces.
I was blown away by the student’s professional interview skills, passionate style, and insight into mature topics – demonstrating their desire to participate in public conversation about the complex world they are growing up in. From articles about student issues, like balancing school work and sports commitments, to national issues such as the gender wage gap, to community concerns like gentrification in Chinatown, these students are bold, curious, and tuned in to the people around them.
I left the editing session reminded of four things:
1. Make Space – I was reminded of how important programs like WriteBoston are, not just for students, but for all of us. Creating opportunities for all voices to be heard is vital to preparing future leaders, and reminding current leaders of the issues that are important to various constituents and communities. We need to create new and support the existing forums, for citizens of all ages, where real dialogue and learning can take place, pulling people out of their Twitter and Facebook feeds that are flooded with angry opinion pieces and cyber bullies.
2. Listen Well – Once opportunities are provided, and space is made for open conversation, we must listen. We must remember to read and research before sharing our own opinions. These students are taught interview skills and coached by mentors before diving into their own work.
3. Write Often – In an age of ever changing emojis, gifs, and abbreviations, it’s easy to feel as though full sentences and written articles are on their way out. The truth is, the written word will never die; content creation will remain central to communicating company goals. In an internal seminar, Castle VP Philip Hauserman reminded us all that every email we send is a written representation of ourselves and our organization. We rely on written word more than ever. Rather than resorting to lazy habits, we should practice intentionality with our words.
4. Edit Always – It isn’t fun to be corrected, but opening yourself up to the opinion of others, allowing others to help you rework your words and focus your thoughts can only help. We know this to be true at Castle, as collaboration is the key to our best work.
I am truly encouraged by the bravery of these students to write about their own stories and their political insights. If you didn’t have a chance to view a print copy in The Boston Globe on March 7th, be sure to check out the latest headlines online.