Celebrating Our Education Programs

The name PEN/Faulkner may conjure images of literary delights, from dynamic authors in conversation to our prestigious, peer-juried awards in fiction and the short story. Alongside these nationally-reaching endeavors, we bring more than one hundred writers to schools across our home city of Washington, DC every year to engage students in the power of the written word.

PEN/FAULKNER’S EDUCATION PROGRAMS AT A GLANCE

For more than 30 years, our Writers in Schools program has personalized literary
expression by bringing renowned authors to classrooms in some of the city’s lowest-performing schools. We donate a copy of each writer’s book to every student in each
classroom we visit, and students prepare burning questions ranging from “How does your experience of racism impact your writing?” to “Do you like Mambo sauce?” (a condiment specific to DC culture). When writers visit, conversations are enriching and
enlightening—for everyone. Writers sign copies of students’ books…and sometimes they get asked to sign hoodies, tennis shoes, water bottles, and even students’ arms. Young people in our education programs make genuine and meaningful connections to writers, and they often find the power to share their personal narratives as well.

In the past few years, we’ve deepened our work with young people by expanding our literacy efforts—through identity-based and language-based programming such as Nuestra Voz; by returning to schools more frequently in order to spend more time with students; and by adding writing programs both during the school year and in the summer months. We believe in expanding young people’s compassion and knowledge about the world through the written word by creating opportunities for exposure, connection, and new ways to grow.

When the winner of our recent Youth Essay Contest, Queenal Ayaba, read her personal essay about the impact violence and war in her home country of Cameroon has on her at our recent Gala, Senator Patrick Leahy sought her out after the reading. He told her she shared a powerful story, and he encouraged her to stay in touch. Author Michael
Cunningham told us how impressed he was by students in a recent visit—and how they
gave him hope for the future. And poet DaMaris B. Hill emphasized how crucial democracy is, conducting her time with students through a collective and wholly democratic approach to the discussion, all while weaving in references to Shakespeare, Angela Davis, and Ida B. Wells.

We’re honored that educators invite us to their classrooms again and again to join in the journey of learning with their students. With more than 90% of our partner schools
designated as high-poverty, the power of narrative, and the encouragement for youth to
shout their personal stories, is especially needed.

WE ARE PROUD OF WHAT WE DO