To any educators or students, I congratulate you on being oh-so-close to completing the semester! I personally am just a few weeks away from completing my last final and celebrating the end of yet another school year. If you are anything like me, you like to spend your summers being productive, engaged, and actively communicating with various parts of your community. Just last summer I had the opportunity to do so.
In 2018, I spent two weeks studying with Bryn Orum, Jen Doucette (instructors), and various other peers, learning about activism, journalism, and the art of combining the two to be empowering, thoughtful, and impactful. This experience was a summer camp / class perfectly titled 'Rise Up & Write.'
'Rise Up & Write' takes place at the University of Wisconsin Madison in the Teacher Education Center / Library, all throughout the summer. It is open to high school students (going into ninth grade or graduating high school) who are interested in English Language and community advocacy.
When I signed up for Rise Up & Write in the spring of 2018, I had no idea that it would make such a monumental impact on my life. During my time at Rise Up & Write, I was immediately welcomed with open arms not only by the mentors, but by my peers as well. It was a class of around fifteen high school students who wanted to make the world a better place. Each and every one of them brought a unique perspective to the table, and made my experience all the more engaging. Never once during my time at Rise Up & Write did I question my being there; beyond who was 'right' or 'wrong' there were ideas. All ideas were welcomed and considered. Conversation and discussion were encouraged, which was quite a dramatic shift from typical classroom antics.
During Rise Up & Write, as a class, we learned about the basics of advocacy, how we can get involved in our communities, and why youth voices are especially important. A multitude of speakers visited sharing their activist stories with the group; from Planned Parenthood workers to Education Specialists these speakers had an incredibly valuable perspective and put a face to the popular success stories. All of this information was not taught in a conventional classroom setting - which undoubtedly can be quite boring and unappealing - rather, Rise Up & Write is taught through group discussions, videos, projects, research, and an incredible amount of brainstorming. It was much more an extended workshop than it was a class.
The underlying goal of Rise Up & Write is for each student to develop some sort of project that they find sustainable and worthwhile. This campaign could be a website, zines, public speaking, plays, conferences, workshops, and so much more! The sky was not the limit during the course; there was no limit. If you had an idea, the mentors and peers were there to coach you through making an ideology become a practical reality. With values focussed on personal growth and fulfillment, and community engagement, making mistakes was not simply accepted, but appreciated.
For me, I began with the idea that women should be given reproductive justice, and ended with a sustainable campaign called Bleed Shamelessly. What was once simply an idea manifested itself into working towards menstrual equity in the Madison community and I can give credit to no one but the people behind Rise Up & Write. I cannot even express how grateful I am for my experiences at Rise Up & Write. It gave me the confidence to sport the identity ‘activist’ and gave me the inspiration to act on my beliefs. Possibly most importantly, Rise Up & Write made me proud of my opinions and beliefs; during class I was not seen as bossy, loud, opinionated, or outspoken, I was perceived to be strong, interesting, and my opinion was valuable.
If you are interested in activism, writing, and personal reflection, you should strongly consider applying for Rise Up & Write.
Here are the programs available this summer:
Youth Voices in Journalism: June 18-21 and 24-27 At Brodhead High School in Brodhead, Wisconsin
Youth Voices for Human Rights: July 8-12 At the UW Madison
Youth Voices for the Environment: July 22 - 26 and 29 - August 2 At the Arboretum
Advocacy to Activism: August 5 - 9 and 12 - 116 At the UW Madison
Check out their video and website to learn more about Rise Up & Write and apply!