In the heat of a Mississippi July, you’ll find College of Charleston political science alum, Sara Hutchinson ’12, surrounded by a group of kind, supportive and brave young women learning to express their experiences through the medium of poetry. These women are participants in the annual Girls Write the World (GWTW) Summer Program, of which Hutchinson is director. As part of their week-long program every summer GWTW creates an intentional curriculum designed to reflect the specific challenges faced by its participants.
“Our curriculum combines poetry writing classes, health education, college counseling, and female-youth specific workshops,” Hutchinson elaborated. “Our goal is to provide a safe, alternative space for creation, exploration and growth, where our participants feel celebrated and supported. At the same time, it is essential that we are also providing specific, tangible tools that they can use to navigate systems that were not necessarily built for them.”
After graduating from CofC, Hutchinson moved to Greenville, MS as a Teach for America corps member where she taught English and French to middle school students. Recognizing the specific challenges and struggles presented to her students, Hutchinson went on to found Girls Write the World with three other former English teachers in Washington County, MS.
“After my corps commitment ended, I just felt like there was more work to be done. As a teacher, I had been particularly concerned about my female students, who had to face both the structural level barriers of systemic racism and sexism, and day-to-day micro-level challenges like the lack of access to health care, or the difficulties of navigating an unhealthy relationship, or just the standard ups and downs of girlhood. Our goal was for GWTW to serve as a space that was responding to all of that. So, with the help of my co-founders, we launched our first annual Girls Write the World summer program in June 2015.”
Since its first summer program, GWTW has served more than 80 young women and encouraged the creation of an estimated 500 poems. The program focuses on literature as a vehicle for empowerment, expression and healing, and recognizes the work as both a political and therapeutic tool. The program also focuses on college counseling and features a day trip to visit a college campus.
Hutchinson herself made the most of her college experience, graduating from the honors college and studying abroad in Morocco and Senegal. “I am very, very grateful for my college experience. In my post-college life, when I talk to friends with different undergraduate experiences, I’ve come to realize that the community I got to be a part of at CofC, one where I really knew my professors and they knew me, is actually pretty rare. It sounds cheesy, but college did what it was supposed to do for me: it expanded and challenged and supported me; it made me more thoughtful.”
Written by Catie Hutchison (CofC Honors ’19). For the full story, check out the Department of Political Science blog.