the writing and publishing center
The Roosevelt High School Writing and Publishing Center recruits and trains volunteers from neighborhood and University of Portland to serve as writing coaches. The Writing Center began as a series of workshops initiated and led by education students from the University of Portland three years ago and it has continued to expand. This year UP students, Roosevelt students and community members—the writing center “consultants”—help staff the center eight hours a day, five days a week. And recently, the center partnered with PSU’s Oooligan Press to publish student writing.
Liz Kamerer, AmeriCorps VISTA member and North Portland Education Initiative Coordinator, is using an innovative approach to coordinating the Writing and Publishing Center. Liz employs the critical service-learning model, an approach which is unapologetic in its aims to dismantle systems of inequality.
According to Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning by Tania Mitchell, the critical service-learning model has three components that differentiate it from traditional service learning:
The writer as the decision maker
The Writing and Publishing Center pedagogy places the writer as the center of power and decision making. Often, disengaged students have a hard time taking ownership of their work, especially if they expect writing center consultants to be authoritative. Instead, consultants help Roosevelt students recognize the different options they have as a writer.
Tutors guide writers
Writing center consultants are trained to let the students maintain control over their writing and process. They help students focus on one to two skills the student would like to build and they ask students open-ended questions. Consultants are trained to differentiate between higher-order and lower-order issues in student writing. This ensures that constant correction doesn’t take away from the focus on the development of ideas.
Writing for social change
If not planned intentionally, service-learning may privilege the needs of volunteers above those of community members. By working from a social change perspective, the critical-service learning model employed in the Writing Center seeks to avoid doing so.
From graduation requirements to college admissions essays, the pressure is on for students to be strong, fluent writers. Writing skills are often the gatekeeper to higher education, employment, and other opportunities. The volunteer training, program structure, and the focus of the program work to create changes in the community by increasing student achievement and access to college.
The Roosevelt High School Writing and Publishing Center was designed to serve four distinct functions:
- to be a peer: an introduction to writing center theory & practice by the UIC Writing Center
- The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors introduces sophisticated approaches to tutoring students of varying cultural backgrounds.
- Mitchell, T. (2008). Traditional vs. critical service-learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning 14(2), 50-65.