This has been the year for blustery days and PWPA meetings. But it doesn’t seem to stop us from getting together and getting some good work done.
At the PWPA/PHENND conference on February 25th, that work was largely collaborative, and it was terrific. Titled “Writing in Service, Writing for Service,” the conference brought together about 40 PWPA members and a terrific representation of PHENND’s service learning leaders in the city to talk about how writing and literacy has been and can be used to empower communities, make sustainable change, and build youth leaders. The conference was anchored by a powerful opening panel—”Literacy for Life: The State of the Region”—of speakers: JoAnn Weinberger, president/executive director of the Center for Literacy; Dr. Nancy Hopkins-Evans, Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent’s Office, SDP; and Catie Wolfgang, director of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. The day proceeded with 3 workshop series, in which participants had the choice of hearing more about topics such as media literacy and youth communities, “community math circles,” a community writing center, intersubjectivity theory, and the ABLE curriculum. The fulcrum of the day was the keynote presentation by Steve Parks, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University. Parks discussed the challenges and successes he has faced in his efforts to create and sustain a community press and democratic political community in the Westside of Syracuse. Parks’s talk was raw and inspiring, and it brought to life the struggles many service learning advocates experience in trying to negotiate the system(s) while trying to build lasting programs.
The day capped with a PWPA general meeting, in which we discussed our continued outreach to recruit new members, ideas for a Spring happy hour meeting, plans already in place for next year’s Fall and Spring meetings, and a PWPA research project collaborative.
Our thanks go to Hillary Kane, Director of PHENND, and Jaime Longo, Associate Director of Academic & Learning Support Services at LaSalle University and Treasurer of PWPA, our wonderful hosts LaSalle University, the generous financial support of Bedford St. Martins, and the many workshop presenters who brought new, compelling conversations to the intersection of writing and service learning.