• Yessica Jain

Running the Chapters Program of The Young Writers Initiative (TYWI)

A year after the launch of the Chapters Program of The Young Writers Initiative, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the successes and obstacles of last year, while looking ahead to our plans for the coming year.


Background

The Young Writers Initiative (TYWI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate, inspire, and serve young authors by providing access to a global community of writers and free writing resources (editing services, workshops, mentorship program, etc.).

I joined the organization’s board as a Director of Chapters just over a year ago. In this role, I helped launch TYWI’s Chapters Program, through which young writers can start chapters (or clubs) of TYWI at their own high school, college/university, or library.

These chapters spread TYWI’s mission to local, in-person communities and widen the reach and impact of TYWI. Chapter founders, meanwhile, gain leadership experience through managing their chapter. And all chapter members discover and bond with a writing community in their localities, while giving back to their communities through writing-related service projects.


Successes and Obstacles

Last year was a series of milestones and learning curves.

We started eleven chapters, one of which was international (based in the Philippines). Unfortunately, some potential chapters never got off the road because the applicants were overwhelmed by the initial work required to start a chapter. Also, some chapters that did form were forced to withdraw at the end of the school year because of a lack of interest from younger students in continuing the club.

However, the eight chapters that did make it past the first year included a total of over a hundred members. These members hosted open mic nights and workshops, created writing and art exhibits for their towns, and invited guest speakers to attend meetings.

Nonetheless, most chapters struggled to complete initial requirements of chapters, including meeting service hour requirements and completing a major project. Although we prepared everything we thought we would need, we didn’t know what obstacles chapters would face (and nor did chapter founders) until founders actually tried starting and running their clubs.

We quickly discovered how hard it is to convince school administrations to allow the creation of a new club in the post-COVID era. Chapters that did get approval struggled to find an available and willing teacher advisor. However, these obstacles are likely to be less prominent as pandemic guidelines decrease.

We also realized chapters were less interested in resources for service projects (which we were providing in excess) and more interested in ideas for spending time in their biweekly meetings. Thus, we adjusted our monthly newsletters to focus on activities to make chapter meetings more fun and engaging.


Plans for the Upcoming School Year

Building off that, we realized we need to provide chapters with more resources in general and have been working to make sure these resources are ready before the beginning of the school year.

These include a presentation-sharing program, through which each chapter submits one informative writing presentation to access presentations created by all other chapters. We will review and edit presentation submissions.

Additionally, we will be partnering with NaNoWriMo, allowing chapters to become official NaNoWriMo affiliates while hosting write-ins throughout November and encouraging members to write 50,000 words that month.

One of the biggest changes we are making to the program is allowing chapters to open at libraries. After opening to just high schoolers in August of 2021, we expanded to colleges and universities before their second semesters started in January. Now, in response to demand from TYWI’s audience, we are allowing library chapters. This will likely come with its own set of obstacles.


Despite the obstacles, this past year has been an amazing experience. Hearing success stories from Chapter Presidents is incredibly fulfilling. I may only be working directly with Chapter Presidents, but this reaches their members, who go on to impact their extended communities. Knowing that encourages me to remain dedicated. I’m excited to see where this program goes from here.


Learn more about TYWI and the Chapters Program at tywi.org. If you are interested in starting a TYWI chapter for the 2022–2023 academic year, apply now.

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