From budding poets and story writers to students looking to improve their schoolwork, high school students receive plenty of practice, training and advice from the UA’s Writing Skills Improvement Program.
The annual Young Writers Institute is a three-week program aimed at providing students with opportunities to develop writing fluency and confidence in academic writing through project-based activities. The Young Writers Institute began more than 30 years ago. It was named a Top 5 summer program for Arizona high schoolers by Arizona State University and ranked No. 2 for summer programs in Arizona for High Schoolers by CollegeVine, a college-prep service provider.
Andrea Hernandez Holm, Senior Program Coordinator for WSIP and the instructor for the Young Writers Institute, said over the program’s history, participants have gone on to earn their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Arizona. Some individuals who began as high school students have even returned to participate in the institute as high school teachers.
“This program gives students the opportunity to use the writing process as a tool for learning and as a key to academic success,” Holm said. “We help students improve their writing skills while expanding their confidence and creativity in writing.”
Kaylyn Williams, a 16-year-old senior at Mountain View High School, writes poetry in her spare time and signed up for the institute to get more practice at all kinds of writing.
“I enjoy doing it. It’s stress relieving for me,” she says. “I wanted to become better and explore different types of writing, like writing stories. I’ve definitely become better at writing quickly and thinking on my feet.”
The program includes some on-campus trips to visit UA programs and resources, including the UA Poetry Center, which was a special highlight of the week for Williams.
“That’s really cool they have a whole library dedicated to poetry,” she said.
Jonathon Jacobsen, a 16-year-old from Roseburg, Oregon, attends a private Christian school and does a lot of essay writing in classes.
“I needed some structure behind my writing and my mom found this program,” he said. “It’s typically difficult for me to write quickly, but the Fire Drills are making me better. The workshop is mainly helping me to write in general faster and better.”
Mateo Sáiz, a 14-year-old starting his freshman year at Academy Tucson High School, is a fan of writing horror stories and reading the likes of Stephen King.
“I wanted to improve my skills in total. I’ve been known to write good stories, but a couple things I wanted to improve were the length of my stories and how to use dialogue,” he said. “Also, I know I’m going to be writing a lot more in school, so I’m hoping to get better grades.”
Natalie Hsu, a 15-year-old sophomore at Marana High School, said the Young Writers Institute gave her great practice and having all the students share their work with the group was a big part of getting better.
“Mostly I write for schoolwork, but I realize that writing is a necessary part of life, for college essays and cover letters and that kind of stuff,” she said. “Before, I didn’t have a passion for writing, but I thought if I developed it more, it would be fun. I’m improving and liking it more.”
The YWI is open to students entering grades nine through 12. Applications for the summer 2020 institute will be available in March at the WSIP website.