A Safe Space for Creative Voices
March 12, 2019
It's Sunday evening at 800 Broadway Street in Waterloo and a group of youth from a wide range of ages and backgrounds gathers at the former church building. They gather to be part of something, to create something, to share something, to stretch their civic imagination. They come together at the Waterloo Writing Project (WWP) to journey through the creative writing process together.
Founded in 2015 and receiving nonprofit status in 2016, the Waterloo Writing Project supports youth in 3rd through 12th grade by providing a place to write, publish, and perform. It also gives them a safe community where expression is welcome, expected, and accepted and where both listening and speaking are considered sacred and imbued with respect. This is a place that supports civic engagement in youth by creating a safe space for their ideas and questions - a space to challenge each other.
Currently facilitated by Crystal Mitchell, Jamisia Young, Anna Patch and Alyssa Bruecken and supported by a host of volunteers, the Waterloo Writing Project is a space outside home and school that gives youth the freedom to create, often times in a way that allows youth an outlet to share their stories, develop a voice, and express challenging thoughts and ideas.
"It was hard for me to talk to people because a lot was going on in my life," said one author of the program. "At the WWP you're never pressured into anything, you can talk when you want to talk and say what you want to say. There are no limits holding you back from anything."
These ideals and ideas aligned with the Catherine Ann Livingston Fund held with the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, an advised field of interest fund. A grant of nearly $4,000 was made to support the work of the still young Waterloo Writing Project, which has grown into two branches and is taking on more authors in its Kid Power and VIBE groups.
"The youth need spaces to open up, stretch their communication styles and learn more about self and the people around us and we are grateful for this grant that supports our work," said Bruecken. "Everybody has creative capacities and writing is an essential part of communicating and needs to be developed and honed."
The program not only engages the participants, but it also inspires the hearts and minds of the volunteers who mentor the authors. Through collaboration, this creative community is revealing its voice and is essential for the youth of the Cedar Valley.