The divisive political discourse taking place over the last year and a half is palpable. Everywhere we turn there’s a news update, a social media post, or a video furthering what seems like an already gaping divide across partisan lines. As arguments boil to the surface amongst adults, how are today’s youth handling it? That’s the very question Melissa White asked herself before launching her grassroots nonprofit Writing Our Wrongs. “Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, our children see the same videos, social media posts, and news that we do as adults… They should be empowered to be kind to one another, know how to speak up, and how to take a stand.”
Since launching Writing Our Wrongs six short months ago, Melissa’s initiatives have crossed state lines. Hear how this go-getter is uncovering the importance of youth voices and activating the next generation of advocates.
What’s your background and why did you decide to launch Writing Our Wrongs?
My background is in sales and marketing but on a personal level I come from a family of philanthropists and social entrepreneurs, so it’s innately in my DNA to give back. As a concerned citizen, as someone who is a youth advocate, and a mentor in other sectors, I saw a void for kids to activate their voices.
We started seven months ago based in the South Fulton/South Atlanta area. We empower youth to activate their voices using writing and speech with our primary platforms being anti-bullying and social justice. So far we’ve partnered with three schools in Atlanta, as well as four other youth organizations to administer our workshops.
The goal is to educate our youth on how to use those platforms respectively and engage them on the skills of writing and speaking so they are heard in an articulate way. Kids are oftentimes left out of the social justice dialogue in terms of solutions, so we created a space for them to be part of it.
Can you tell us a little more about the importance of activating youth voices?
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, our children see the same videos, social media posts, and news that we do as adults. Everything that is going on in the adult world affects them. They should be empowered to be kind to one another, know how to speak up, and how to take a stand. In our workshops, we see so many examples of powerful written and spoken works from kids. It makes you stop and think, ‘As adults, we can learn a whole lot from the pure hearts of these kids.’ It’s overwhelming. Ultimately, we hope our work raises healthy advocates and creates active citizens which will come full circle as they grow up and continue to use their voice in a positive way as adults in the community.
Ultimately, we hope our work raises healthy advocates and creates active citizens which will come full circle as they grow up and continue to use their voice in a positive way.
You recently held an event at Center for Civil and Human Rights. Can you tell us how that went and your vision for Writing Our Wrongs over the next year?
Our first annual event, W.O.W. Day at the Museum, was one week after the Atlanta Women’s March where over 62,000 Atlantans united together; the starting point being at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. There is an undercurrent of people wondering what to do next and how to get involved so this event couldn’t have come at a better time. W.O.W. Day at the Museum came about as we toured the museum one day and put together clues connected to writing and speaking. We used examples from Martin Luther King and the letter from the Birmingham Jail, marches through history, and speeches that invoke or spark people to get involved. The Day at the Museum incorporated those examples to create our scavenger hunt as well as a panel of local social justice leaders, activists and changemakers, and fellow social entrepreneurs. It allowed our kids, partners, and supporters to see these examples from history and learn from those already active in the community on how to activate their voices in a meaningful way.
The vision for Writing Our Wrongs moving forward is to grow and be present in as many schools as possible. We are scheduled to facilitate programs in two more states, and we are working on partnerships to deliver our program to more schools and organizations such as Horizons Atlanta. In the next six months, we will start to train facilitators. We are small but we’ve already seen our demand far surpass our expectations. Our overall goal is to create public platforms for our youth through essay and oratorical contests and award scholarships as they grow to be a powerful voice in our society. The growth of our organization is proof that it is an idea whose time has come.
How can the community help support Writing Our Wrongs? How can this initiative be brought into new schools?
We would love the help of college-age students to assist with our volunteer efforts so we can continue to grow. We will begin training W.O.W. Ambassadors and Program Facilitators in May 2017. If you are a parent or educator who wants this program brought into your school we would love to connect and talk about how we can help. We need people who have a vested interest to reach out. Donations are also always welcome and greatly appreciated.
Photos are property of Writing Our Wrongs.