Through a partnership between The Writer’s Center and the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, English language learners tell the stories immigration statistics do not. Students describe their journeys (both physical and emotional) on paper, in English. Students work with a local author to study poetry and the personal essay as vehicles for exploring who they are, honing literacy skills learned in the school’s cutting-edge ESL and workforce development curriculum. Most of them have never taken part in any form of creative writing prior to the program.

Their poems and essays express excitement, loss, nostalgia, fear, confusion, and joy. Behind every word, there is a brave soul who left everything he or she knew behind to seek a better life. Participants endeavor to preserve their identity in the course of integrating into a new culture and economy, by writing about work, family, their home countries, their vision of community, and the internal conflicts wrought by displacement. Their stories represent the landscape of newcomers in an ever-evolving America and the power of literature and fellowship to give those who are often invisible a voice.

Since 2015, approximately 150 students have participated in the program by taking part in a weekly course that spans the entire academic semester as well as a noontime drop-in writers’ group.

“If poetry can make a tiny positive wave on the lake of human beings and society, if it can make us and anything around us warm and healthy, then the value of poetry seems to be enough.”

— Eunjin, a student from the program

This program is made possible in part by the generous support of the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Max & Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, as well as individual gifts. We are currently seeking funding to run the program in Fall 2018.