Helen Keith’s organization is called “Promoting Children’s Voices,” but it could just as easily be called “Supporting Children’s Lives.”
Consider: Keith, a former OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow, recently traveled to Mercyhurst College to attend the graduation of a young man who once penned poems and daily musings in Keith’s after-school and summer programs.
Keith’s trip to the graduation ceremony epitomizes the desired result of her writing program, where she teaches children, ages 8 to 16, from southwest Baltimore to use poetry, journaling and other forms of writing to cope with the stresses of growing up in an inner-city.
“I keep up with all of my kids,” said Keith, who founded Promoting Children’s Voices more than a decade ago. “If you can keep a couple of kids off the street and can teach them to express themselves through poetry, you can keep them from physically and mentally abusing themselves or others in society.” Keith hands notepads and pencils to neighborhood youth and urges them to put their feelings to paper.
After a group trip to see “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center, Keith tasked the youngsters with writing about why they believed the Grinch was so mean.
And when Barack Obama first became president, Keith encouraged the children to put themselves in his shoes.
“All the kids wrote poems about if they were president and they drew pictures of things that they would change,” she said. “They said they wish the violence would stop. They wish they could live better and that they could go to better schools.”
With her 2006 fellowship, Keith bought much-needed journals, folders, pens, pencils and games-things she and her husband used to pay for out of pocket.
“Prior to the Fellowship, I had not received a grant for all of the 10 years,” said Keith. “And now that it’s over, I’m still going strong, and am determined to survive.”