Then and now
Patrice Hutton founded Writers in Baltimore to offer literary development classes to low-income public school students. The program uses volunteers in the undergraduate and graduate writing programs at Johns Hopkins University to provide in-school, after-school and summer creative writing workshops to Baltimore City middle school students. It also organizes student open mic nights and book launch events throughout the community. Since her fellowship ended, Writers in Baltimore has doubled its number of workshop offerings and transitioned schools to a fee-for-service model. Since 2008, the program has served more than 400 Baltimore city middle school students with great success. After one year of instruction, participating students were 33 percent more likely to earn advanced scores on the reading portion of the Maryland School Assessment than their classmates.
Challenge of sustainability
Writers in Baltimore’s biggest challenge has been fundraising.
“We’ve been able to get a lot of specific grants to fund specific programs,” Hutton says, “but we’ve been less successful in securing funds to pay salaries for full-time employees and intern stipends to allow the program to really grow.”
OSI-Baltimore has helped
“A lot of foundations see that you have been vetted by OSI, rather than being a random organization asking them for money,” Hutton says. “People seem much more willing to work with you once they know that you have already proven yourself.”
Hutton also is grateful for OSI-Baltimore gatherings, which bring fellows together monthly for honest discussion about the progress of their work.
“As a fellow, you work largely by yourself, and hearing about the challenges and successes of other fellows makes the work we do extremely rewarding.”
Although she has not yet teamed up with other fellows, Hutton is looking for opportunities to do so in the future.
“I would love to partner with someone working in the juvenile justice program to set up a writing program,” she says.
Hutton will use this grant to work with a fundraising consultant.
“She is very seasoned in the field of education and not only will we appreciate her knowledge and input for the year that we have her, but hopefully I will be able to learn from her and continue her success,” Hutton says.
Hutton always is looking for creative ways to improve upon versions of what she’s done in the past. In fact, Writers in Baltimore was just awarded a Wells Fargo Cultural Excellence grant to implement a new, “more intense version” of the Writers in Baltimore program, in which students will come to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Concern, where Hutton has office space, for concentrated writing direction.
This August, Writers in Baltimore is holding a sleep away camp for five days and four nights in western Maryland, which has grown out of a day program Hutton has hosted for the past few summers.
“I’ve gone to several writing camps in the past,” Hutton says, “and I think creating that intense community of writers could be really powerful for some of these young people who don’t necessarily have the chance to get out of the city very often.”