Passion and Purpose
"A passion and a purpose"—these are what Deep Laureate Krystell says she got by joining Deep.
Deep Center creates a village of support around Savannah's young people. And that village works with youth to foster writing that is skillful, joyful, and fierce. We know firsthand that when a young person learns how to tell his story and tell it well he gains confidence in who his is, pride in his community, and a belief that he can change his world.
We saw dozens of examples this year of this kind of passion and purpose coming from young writers' pens. This was a year of great upheaval, and, for many of Savannah's most vulnerable communities, a year of increasing uncertainty. Yet Deep's young authors met these challenges with a resiliency and power that often taught the adults in the room a thing or two.
Which is kind of the point. When Savannah listens to our young people, we learn.
Take Krystell, whose powerful writing was the reason Savannah voted her Deep Laureate Winter 2017. At the May Deep Speaks Krystall, then an 8th grader at East Broad K-8 School, took the stage and gave a moving speech about how Deep changed her life:
Deep has made me realize that I can potentially change the world. Maybe not today, or next week, but eventually. I hope that I am able to become someone that others can look up to. I hope that I can inspire and motivate people to do what they love, to stand up for what they believe in. I want to become an advocate for love and respect towards ourselves and others. Deep has given me a passion and a purpose. It's one of the best things that's happened to me.
Krystell's story is just one example of how Deep works hard to make Savannah a stronger, more vibrant, and more beautiful place for all of our residents. Let me tell you about a few more of this year's successes.
All told, across three programs, we
- offered 398 scholarships
- published 305 young authors
- worked with thirteen public middle schools and nine public high schools
- showcased youth writing before estimated audiences of 2,100
- published 10 books of youth writing.
- English Language Arts (ELA) Grades: Comparing pre- and post-workshop ELA grades for youths who completed the Young Author Project in spring 2017, 58% saw an increase in their ELA grades, with an average increase of 9.1% (or nearly a full grade).
- Youth Development and Social Emotional Learning: Aggregated pre- and post-workshop data from our 2016-17 Block by Block program show remarkable increases in Empowerment (4.5%), Positive Values (4.7%), Social Competencies (4.9%), Positive Identity (7.2%), Personal (5%), Social (5.7%), Community (4%), and Constructive Use of Time (7.3%).
- Writing: We evaluate student writing using the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) writing rubric, which is widely considered the most rigorous writing assessment tool available. Published young authors in our Young Author Project all saw remarkable improvements according to this measure: In fall 2016 64% of sampled youth saw average increases of 17%; and in spring 2017 64% saw an average increase of 17.5%—huge gains.
- Deep Thinking: We assess the "critical literacy" capacities of Block by Block youth. This is the ability to read texts in an active, reflective manner in order to better understand how your story fits into the world at large. We use a rubric designed by a literacy scholar, and on a four point scale 93% of all 2017 Block by Block youth increased their critical literacy by 48%.
A Family Affair
Deep is a family affair. When we encourage kids to write about their lives they often tell the stories of their families. Parents, grandparents, guardians, and siblings thrill to hear their everyday struggles and joys celebrated. This past year, in our intermediate program Block by Block, we created numerous opportunities for family members and other adult community members to join youth for learning and writing about the hard topics facing Savannah. There are very few opportunities in Savannah for youth and parents to come together and work creatively to render their family and city stories, and Deep is changing that, one workshop at at time.
For instance, at our Creative Writing Potluck, family members shared and ate favorite family recipes that carried stories of how their kin migrated across time and geography to arrive in Savannah. At one table three generations of one family ate and wrote about their family's famous Shoo Fly Pie recipe.
Connecting Learning to Community
In May youth worked with food truck owners and community health activists Jared Jackson and Melissa DeLynn. In addition to interviewing the couple, sampling their food, writing with them, and co-designing a mural for the side of their new food truck, youth learned about food deserts, nutrition, and how poverty and inequitable municipal investment disproportionately impact community health and access to fresh and nutritious foods.
New Advanced Programming
In April we launched our third tier of writing and leadership programming, the Youth Leadership Team (YLT). In 2017 YLT supported eight advanced creative writers (aged 16-18) who provided ongoing feedback to Deep staff on programs, engaged in advanced creative writing on critical community issues, co-facilitate conversations and convenings on topics facing their communities, and went on leadership trips to engage with national peers on important issues.
Dr. Kevin Burke of the Department of Education at the University of Georgia conducted research on Deep's Block by Block program in 2016-17 and drafted a report entitled "I'm Empowered by a Better Connection." His conclusions about Deep Center are glowing. For instance, he writes:
Savannah will be better for the work that gets done by Deep: not only is this a process of teaching writing, research, or empowerment. Instead, ultimately, it's about providing space for future civic leaders in the city. The kids at the Deep Center are connected in ways we'd do well to understand, honor and support for the betterment of the city of Savannah, the state of Georgia, and the country at large.
Deep Is Resilient
We are stronger than we've ever been, and we're serving more and more of Savannah's public school students in deeper ways. Our staff members are some of our city's most skilled and caring, and they are connected to national networks of experts. Our board is diverse, resourceful, and grounded in what matters most. And, most importantly, our young authors are fierce and thriving.
It's people like you who have helped Deep get here. You can ensure we continue to serve Savannah's kids with some of the best programming in the nation. And we're a great investment. Giving us $1 is like giving us $5: for every dollar we raise locally we attract $4 from national funders, like the National Endowment for the Arts.
Please help Deep run and expand our 2018 programs. We aim to raise $40,000 by December 31, and you can help by taking three actions right now.
First, consider making a tax-deductible donation. Here is what your donation will do:
- $228 covers the annual costs of one child in our Young Author Project workshops
- $114 supports that child for one semester
- $19 pays for one month of workshop time for that child
- $6,500 underwrites a full year of workshops at one school, serving up to 28 children.
Second, become a Deep Patron by making your gift recurring on a monthly or annual basis.
Third, please tell your friends, family members, colleagues, and co-workers about Deep Center and encourage them to get involved.
Your generosity will help nurture another young Krystell in 2018 and give that young person a passion and a purpose she might not otherwise discover.
Please take a moment, right now, to give to Deep.