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Genesee Valley Writing Project awarded grant through the LRNG Innovators Challenge

Genesee Valley Writing Project Awarded a Grant via the 2019 LRNG Innovators Challenge

Teacher-led innovation that designs for youth impact and showcases powerful learning

This year’s LRNG Innovators Challenge invited educators to design ways that youth can share their work with their communities, build real-world connections, and have impact on the issues that matter most to them. With support from John Legend's The Show Me Campaign and the National Writing Project (NWP), the Genesee Valley Writing Project (GVWP) at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education has been selected for an LRNG Innovators grant award for “Producing Justice: Urban Youth Changing Their Community,” a Rochester, N.Y. project that connects youth interests to larger networks, mentors, and/or forums where they can share their work and amplify their message.

Regarding the challenge, John Legend said, "We believe every young person deserves access to a quality education. We know that teachers have the unique power to change students' lives, and we're excited to continue supporting educators who are designing innovative ways to inspire young people."

The LRNG Innovators Challenge supports teams of educators in designing, testing, and sharing solutions that build the future of creative and connected learning today. During the next 15 months, LRNG Innovators grantees will develop, pilot, and share promising ways to support, showcase, and celebrate the powerful work that youth create when they have opportunities to explore interests and ideas that are valuable to them and their communities. As part of the design process, the educators from the 10 projects will benefit from co-founder NWP's deep experience supporting teacher leadership through local and national networks.

"Across the country there are innovative teachers and engaged young people who are creating a new vision of what education can be, now and into the future. Through LRNG Innovators and with support from the U.S. Department of Education, NWP invests in great teachers and youth so that, ultimately, we all can learn from them," said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, executive director of the National Writing Project.

Beginning with urban high-school students’ authentic interests in bringing about meaningful change in their community, the Rochester project will bring together a team of nine East High School teachers across content areas with their students to design and implement student interest-based justice projects. Given the endemic issues of poverty and under-teaching in Rochester, the team shares the purpose of working with students to design and implement justice-oriented projects that will seek to change the inequities they live with every day.

Joanne Larson, Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education and director of the GVWP at the Warner School, will lead the yearlong project aimed at facilitating students' developing relationships in the community and identifying mentors who can help them make the changes they want to see.

This teacher-led project will connect students with people in community organizations, neighborhood groups, a new national newspaper, and relevant government offices who can help student collaborative teams enact the projects they design and to make their projects freely accessible via various digital outlets. The shared purpose is to take authentic action for justice and equity in the Rochester community and beyond.

Participating East teachers include: Sarah Collins, Sara Gotham, Grant Atkins, Dan Travis, Kristen Shaw ‘10W (MS), Chris Bethmann ‘13 (BS), ‘15W (MS), Shana Pies ‘05W (MAT), Kristine Price, and Alexa Basile ‘15W (MS). Additionally, Jayne Lammers, associate professor at the Warner School, will consult with Larson and the team of East teachers.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Rochester’s youth to express their voice in their own community,” said Larson. “As we embark on this work, it is important to help young people develop powerful ideas that unite our community. This will be an amazing testament to what we can achieve when coming together to address problems of inequity in Rochester and more broadly.”