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Nonprofit Writing Partnerships Provide Students with Real-World Experience

Clayton High School students are learning firsthand how they can use their words to make a difference in their community, the broader St. Louis region and across country. Through a partnership with six local nonprofits, Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition students are gaining real world writing experience this school year while helping the nonprofits engage their key audiences.

“Our Professional Writing Partnerships program is helping students become more informed citizens by gaining a deeper understanding of the social issues within their community and region and using this knowledge to inform or persuade other people about these important issues,” said AP English Language and Composition Teacher Eric Turley.

The program kicked off with a visit from the nonprofits to teach students about the causes they support, which range from fighting childhood cancer to improving air quality. Students ranked the nonprofits with which they preferred to work, and Turley matched students with a nonprofit for the project.

In September, students met with a representative from their selected nonprofit to discuss the writing project they would be working on this semester. The projects require students to branch out from the writing style they typically use in English class in order to successfully write a press release, blog post or fundraising appeal letter.

Seniors Lenny Chen and Jake Sher have been working on a press release for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, which is a writing style that neither student has previously used. According to Lenny, “I like the concision of [the press release]. It’s a good way to express what you need to without having to read through a lot.”

In November and December, each group met with their respective nonprofits to gain feedback on their project and discuss next steps. While the nonprofits may make additional edits to the students’ work, some form of the students’ writing will be used to benefit the organizations. In exchange, the students gain a more well-rounded writing experience this year that will help them in their future careers.

“I really like the concept of learning by doing. It gets you out of the books and into a practical application of what you’re learning,” said Rick Jackoway of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Sarah Melinger of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation added, “There is a big difference between writing for school and writing in the real world.”

During second semester, the students will continue working with the nonprofits but will take on a new project that requires a different style of writing. With two real world writing projects under their belts, they will be even more prepared for college and beyond.