Hannah Rose Neuhauser was named one of our New Voices of Philanthropy last year for her work with Young Authors Greenhouse, an organization that provides young writers with one-on-one mentorship. We recently caught up with Neuhasuer to learn more about the organization and how the community can get involved.
When we spoke with you in the fall, Young Authors Greenhouse was working with a group of sixth grade girls on writing workshops. Are you still in this classroom? How have these students progressed this year?
We are in the same class at Olmsted Academy South, but we have a new group of students this semester. The young authors from last semester improved their writing in truly incredible ways. We did pre- and post-program writing assessments, and the results are encouraging. We are so fortunate to be working with partners like Principal Angela Allen and their teacher, Jennifer Wade-Hesse, who share our belief in giving students ownership over their writing, value the transformational power of one-on-one attention on student learning and believe writing is critical to future success.
It’s a real joy to see confidence blooming in our classroom. One student in particular would sit with her head down, disengaged. She would write, but then almost immediately crumple up her paper and throw it in the trash. By the end of the semester, she lit up the room with her energy, being the first to raise her hand to share.
This transformation is thanks to our volunteers. They sit with students in small groups, encouraging and validating ideas. The connections that the volunteers make with students are lasting – the girls from last semester still pop into the classroom to say hello and let us know they are still writing.
The experience has proven valuable to our volunteers, too: 100% of the volunteers who finished our semester-long book project last year are continuing this semester.
In November, Jim James played a sold-out show with special guest Dave Eggers to benefit YAG. What was that experience like and how much money did that event raise?
Dave Eggers came to the classroom and heard every student read a piece of writing. He responded with positive, individual feedback about their work. He asked questions that made the students feel like real authors. One student, Fredrickqua, was moved to tears. When I talked to her later and asked why she became so emotional, she said, “I just couldn’t believe that a famous author was sitting next to me, talking to me about my own writing. I’ve just come so far.”
Later, in front of a sold-out crowd, two of our students courageously shared their poems – and received a standing ovation. Before they went on stage, I asked how they were feeling. Their response was simple: “Famous!”
The show was spectacular. Jim James sang of equality and inclusivity – recurring themes in our students’ writing. Through art and community, we connected to one another. It was a day when we were able to see the big picture in all of its sparking clarity – the time our volunteers have spent with these young authors has turned into something beautiful and impactful.
Our event raised enough money to continue our Young Authors Book Project at Olmsted Academy South. And we are hoping to open an after-school tutoring and writing room in Olmsted Academy South this April! We already have volunteers and in-kind donations from Brown-Forman to transform a room in their school into an enchanted forest of learning. We have a long list of students eager to join the club. Many participated in our book project and want to stay connected to the volunteers through the center. We are beyond grateful to the generosity of Dave, Jim and everyone who attended the concert and donated. We are excited to continue our work and keep branching out.
What are the long-term goals for the organization and what are your hopes for it?
Our dream is to see students’ minds open and pencils move. Our vision is to be a go-to organization for people who want to volunteer in support of our public schools, especially for literacy and for schools in the most traditionally underserved areas of our city. We aim to become a chapter of 826 National, a current network of nonprofit tutoring and writing centers like our own across the country, co-founded by Dave Eggers.
Like other 826s, we want to open our own stand-alone center so we can be a destination for making writing fun, creating books and magazines that honor students’ words and inspiring students to think and write with confidence. Every center has a quirky, whimsical retail shop theme, such as Pirate Supply Store and Robot Repair Shop. This shows students that the center is a fun place where creativity and imagination are encouraged, and removes the stigma of going to a tutoring center. We are currently exploring our own retail identity and location options in Portland.
Our goals are to help close the academic achievement gap for underserved youth and make it easy for them to get connected to additional caring, supportive adults.
The beauty of writing is that it is personal and active. When students write, they are forced to explore their own opinions; to deepen their understanding of concepts like courage, identity and purpose; and to imagine dreams for their future. Ultimately, our vision is that students learn how to use their words to make those dreams happen.
How can the community get involved? How can a classroom apply to have a workshop in their school?
Volunteers are the heart and energy of our work. We are always looking for people to shine light on our students and organization! Currently, we need volunteers for our after-school tutoring center in Olmsted Academy South and for our Roadshows, which are one-time, high-energy writing workshops offered to classrooms during school.
At our tutoring center, volunteers help students one-on-one as they work on homework and creative writing projects. We provide support in all subjects – so whether you are a history buff, English expert, science champ or math wizard, we’d love to have your help. Most importantly, we are looking for engaged, caring people with empathetic hearts.
We have behind-the-scenes opportunities, too, like editing or graphic design work. Even if you only have an hour to give, we will find a way for you to make an impact.
We also need donor support to:
• offer more writing programs (such as a summer program in partnership with National Center for Families Learning and Sarabande Books, a journalism workshop for high schoolers with the Main Library’s Gonzo Festival, and one-time Roadshow Workshops for elementary school classrooms),
• expand into after-school tutoring at Olmsted Academy South, and open our own center in Portland for students to write, get help with homework and explore their imaginations.
Teachers can apply to have a Roadshow in their classroom starting in March. These workshops are one to two hour-long high-energy writing experiences for elementary students. Teachers can select a lesson plan from fiction, non-fiction or poetry. We teach the lesson and bring in a team of volunteers to support the students through the writing process. We also offer a college essay writing workshop for high school classes. We seek to partner with teachers working within schools that are located in traditionally underserved neighborhoods or who serve students living in those areas. Our priority zip codes are 40212, 40203, 40202, 40210, 40211 and 40215.
Lastly, we are constantly looking for ways to bring our students’ words to the community. Our students read at the Jim James concert, wrote and performed a song with Jim James and Teddy Abrams on TV and will be published in a book this summer. If you have a platform for their words, let us know!
People interested in volunteering can complete a volunteer application on our website: youngauthorsgreenhouse.org.
People or organizations interested in donating can make a donation on our website or contact our Executive Director Jeannette Bahouth at Jeannette@youngauthorsgreenhouse.org VT
Our students have a brilliant vision of the world, and we want to share their voices! Here are two poems from last semester that we will publish in a book this summer:
To Be That Close
By Fredrickqua Hawkins
So quiet you sleep.
Every day I can be
My rocking chair breathing
Dark brown birds land
on rusty powerlines.
An orange and black monarch butterfly lands
softly on gray tree branches—
adding sparks of color.
Squirrels running from
cats running from
dogs barking softly.
I can understand
To get away
and chase your dreams.
To be that close.
how to be Powerful like a girl
after Ada Limon’s “how to triumph like a girl”
By Brooklynn Loar
I like us girls best.
How we stand up for ourselves.
Like if someone calls us ugly,
we don’t let it get in the way.
We say, “I don’t care.” or “So?”
I like how we say we are awesome.
Take control ladies,
see who you are,
do what you always do!
I like that we are girls.
We take control like a lion standing up
for her lovely pack of lions.
We can smell fear and hope.
On the outside,
we stand up.
Do you want to believe in us?
Because we can be more than you think.