Keep St. Pete Lit offers weekly writing classes at Fairmount Park Elementary, Campbell Park Elementary, Midtown Academy, Academy Prep, and Melrose Elementary, providing an outlet for student’s creative expression.
Founder Maureen McDole says, through writing, youth are encouraged to, “work out tough issues such as gender roles, bullying, racism, homelessness, and stereotypes.”
“Our classes give them a place to put their emotions and observations,” she added, “and they find their voices and speak their truths in the classes. It’s beautiful to see their enthusiasm as they fall in love with language, and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve them.”
Keep St. Pete Lit also works to help its schools improve their libraries by acquiring new culturally diverse books and contain protagonists that reflect the students. The organization has also provided book boxes in four south St. Petersburg locations for children to access books while out of school.
Sara Reis teaches for the organization at Fairmount Park Elementary and, Academy Prep as well as Virginia Leonard Community Center before that closed due to budget cuts.
Sara noted, “We end each class with a share session where students present what they’ve written that day. At first, many students were reluctant to perform and some even refused. But it didn’t take long for students to develop new confidence and excitement for writing.” Sara said that “share time” became so popular, with students so excited to read their work, that she had to start picking names out of a hat so that each student had an equal chance to perform next. “It was touching to watch the students clap and support one another,” said Sara.
Sara shared about one student, Bran Dreshia, who was quiet initially and unconfident in her writing ability. Bran Dreshia, like many others, thought poetry and creative writing were hard and “not for her.” But, noted Sara, by the end of the class, “she’d gleam after completing a poem. She couldn’t wait to show me, and she’d eagerly perform her work and even create beats to go along with her poem. She’d hear the music and rhythm of her words and perform them that way.”
Sara said that many students struggled to write a sentence at first, but by the end of the year, they had produced clear, creative, and interesting work that Keep St. Pete Lit published in an anthology. “When I gave them a copy [of the anthology], they excitedly flipped through the pages to find their poems. They were so proud of their accomplishment and how much they’d progressed.”
Keep St. Lit also presents Poetry Open Mics — now a virtual event during the COVID-19 shutdown, as well as adult classes and workshops. You can also take part in a letter-writing campaign to essential workers during the COVID-19 period.
Venture Philanthropy Fund is happy to help support literacy in St. Pete with Keep St. Pete Lit!
VenturePF Supports Literacy
The Venture Philanthropy Fund at Pinellas Community Foundation has been a valuable resource for our community. Contact VenturePF for more information or to apply for support.