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The Voice of the Black Community

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Grant to bring 'stories to life' for DPS students
 
Published Wednesday, May 31, 2017
by Staff Reports

“Stories Come to Life,” a grant-funded language arts workshop, will expand this year to reach more than 600 Durham students at Neal, Lowe’s Grove and James E. Shepard middle schools. Organized by the Durham Arts Council, this interactive program is designed to help underperforming students improve their writing, reading and communication skills through storytelling.

In the residency, students learn how to put experiences from their own lives into writing. The stories can be tragic, joyous or anything in between, so long as they’re true. Students are coached along the way by Emmy Award-winning journalist and actress, Anita Woodley. To get them to open up and find their own voice, Woodley leads by example, slipping into characters from her autobiographical theater productions and sharing vivid stories from her own life.

“She creates an environment that nurtures students and encourages them to write about things that matter to them. I’ve seen some of the toughest kids light up, sharing things that they wouldn’t share with anyone else normally,” said Jennifer Curry, former English Language Arts director and teacher of Lowe’s Grove.

At the end of the program, which runs from March to early May, the students’ collected stories are published in a book. Each student receives a personal copy, and schools receive copies for their libraries. The 500 stories will be published in 26 booklets in early June.

Since 2014, “Stories Come to Life” has been empowering sixth-grade students at Neal Middle. This includes students who read 50 percent below grade level. In 2017, sixth-grade benchmark testing revealed that the students have improved, raising scores above 50 percent at Neal.

“’Stories Come to Life’ is a great thing for our kids. We welcome the program back every year,” Principal Michael Fuga said.

A rapid book signing and award ceremony for all sixth-grade students is June 9, 8:45 to 10:50 a.m., at Shepard Middle, 2404 Dakota St.

 

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