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Alumni Spotlight: Sara Hutchinson ’12, Founder and Director of Girls Write the World

Posted by: hutchisonch | September 24, 2018 | No Comment |

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. 

GWTW campers read during a poetry workshop

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.”

Though Hutchinson does not work in a solely political field, she puts immense value on what she was able to learn through her political science classes.  “During my time in the department, I was particularly drawn to political theory classes.  The readings, lectures and discussions pushed me to think really deeply about our world, the ways we live together and the ways we could live better.  This sort of framework is valuable for someone like me who is eager to engage in social justice work, but it’s also helpful for any human being who wants to live intentionally and strives to advocate for herself and others.”

GWTW campers visiting the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, MS

Hutchinson’s goals are being fulfilled through Girls Write the World and she has high hopes for the program in the future and for a brand new program called G-Lead, which is being run by a former camper.  “We feel really strongly that the future of GWTW rests in the hands of our participants,” Hutchinson explained. “We’re looking to them to step into leadership roles in the organization, to inform our curriculum, and to let us know what they need.  As our participants continue to age out of our program and graduate from high school, we’re looking forward to having more join our team as counselors in the summers to come.  I think 5 years from now, our dream would be for our former campers to be totally running the show.”

Hutchinson’s advice to current undergraduate students is this: “Life keeps going after college, which (for me at least) was kind of hard to fully understand while I was still in school.  Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes in exciting, and sometimes it’s boring.  Pay attention to what you are legitimately interested in and let that be your guide.  If there is something you care deeply about, or an issue that inspires or enrages you, listen and respond to whatever that may be.”

Girls Write the World has allowed Hutchinson to follow her own advice and she has been devoted to creating a safe and encouraging community among the participants and counselors.  “Literally the only rules we have for our participants are to be kind, supportive and brave, but we are strict about those rules.  I can’t exactly put it into words, but I know that something very powerful happens when women come together and commit to love each other and to themselves.”

Learn more about Girls Write the World here. 

Interested in supporting their mission? Donate or check out their t-shirt shop.

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