By Dan Laskin, Newsletter Editor, The Kenyon Review. This article was originally posted in The Kenyon Review August 2017 newsletter, available here.
The KR Young Writers Workshop—immersive, exhausting, relentlessly exhilarating—can give high school students a powerful taste of new possibilities. That has been especially true for students from the South Bronx in New York City who have been participating in the summer program since 2010, with the help of full scholarships and a KR partnership with the Hunts Point Alliance for children.
This year, seven Hunts Point Scholars participated in the two-week program, four in the first session, three in the second. “The ringing remarks in their final emails home can be summarized as this program changed my life and best summer ever,” wrote Jill Roche, executive director of the Alliance. The nonprofit organization unites schools and community organizations in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, offering programs for both children and families.
“Kenyon really helps you become the best writer you can be,” wrote Stanley Asamoah, one of the young scholars, in an email to the Alliance. “Before, I was timid about sharing my work; then I started feeling more comfortable when I realized that everyone was like me. I will truly miss Kenyon. . . . I’m glad I did this program because it changed my life.”
“One thing I have learned about myself at Kenyon is that I am more confident about my writing,” wrote Melanie Beato. “Sharing my pieces every day has helped me in both my confidence to speak and present to others.”
The students had high praise for David Hall, the longtime director of Young Writers. Hall “shared with us that as much as you put in is what you will get in return,” wrote Jason Solis. “I truly believe in that, as I’ve tried to be as outgoing and foot-first as I can.” The program “may have been the best two weeks of my life.”
Aaliyah Daniels wrote: “I cannot explain how much I appreciate that you [the Hunts Point Alliance] sent me to Kenyon. I will never forget David Hall, because he truly inspires me.”
KR has awarded full scholarships to Hunts Point Scholars since they first began coming to Young Writers in 2010. Starting in 2014, the Charles Hayden Foundation of New York has generously provided a good portion of the scholarship funding, with the balance raised in the annual benefit dinner and auction honoring the winner of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.