PITW#32 Inject Creativity Into Everything

One way to encourage literacy skills in students is to get those creative juices flowing!  As the Putting Idealism to Work #32 demonstrates, illuminating creativity is a wonderfully useful way to encourage students to write.  At City Year Philadelphia, Corps members aim to improve their students’ literacy skills through cultivating an environment of reading and writing.  Further, AmeriCorps members are placed on specific teams within the schools they serve to research and provide resources for best practices in literacy, math, extended learning time, social-emotion learning, and attendance. 

To read more about our attendance work, click here.

For example, the Literacy Team at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School in North Philadelphia had a recent writing initiative, the Holiday Creative Writing Contest.  Centered on the theme of gratitude, students were highly encouraged to write a poem on thankfulness.  Although open to creative expression, the poem had a few requirements: 3-5 stanzas, four lines each, must illustrate gratitude.  The poem did not need to rhyme, but many students exhibited their rhyming abilities, or “bars” in their words.  To encourage the whole school to write poems, the team decided to choose one winner from each grade (5th-8th) and awarded them prizes.

Some students were hesitant to write a poem, citing their lack of knowledge about verse.  Yet Corps members countered their uncertainty with “You listen to rap, right?  Well that’s poetry.” 

Students poured their lyrics to the Literacy Team, proving their ability to creatively write.  Not only did students learn poetic terms like “stanza,” but more importantly they had the chance to showcase their writing in an environment that does not always have room for expressive arts opportunities.  Through this City Year literacy initiative, the middle school scholars at Grover  amazed and impressed their Corps member mentors, and found a creative spark within them. 

Below are some of the our favorites: 

“Poem” by a 5th grader

Roses are red

Violets are blue

When I go home I will sing with the love

of joy


And I will fall asleep with the sweetest

thing I love

And wake up with a wonderful life

And all I dream of is my family


My family made everything in my

life happen

My mom and dad cares, love, and make

Sure my life is good


My family has my back

My friends have my back

I have my family and friends’ back

And no matter what I will always

love them all my life


“City Program of the Year” by a 6th grader

Thank you City Year,

I wonder how you got here,

Once you came into my life,

My mind didn’t have to sacrifice!

But why am I grateful?

‘Cause everyday you guys help me pull,

So when I am in need,

You guys would help me take the lead.


What are you guys grateful for,

because I want to know more,

about you and City Year,

Now there is no fear.


Now I don’t have anything else,

but I would have this one last say,

so here I go saying this,

Thank you for helping me!! :)


“The Feast” by a 7th grader

There is a delicious aroma in the air

My mom is cooking a feast, which is very rare

Friends and family are visiting my humble home

Even my favorite great aunt from Rome


Everything in the house is sparkling clean

Even the very big flat tv screen

Everyone is dressed all fancy

Even my very sloppy cousin, Nancy


Everyone gathers around the table

And my dad turns off the cable

One by one you say what we are thankful for

Then it’s time to eat and my stomach roars


Written by Shannon Fasanella, City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member serving at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School

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