As the culmination of a comprehensive 10-week writing program, Chapman University and Santiago Charter Middle School (in Orange Unified School District) cohosted a virtual publishing party in November 2021 to celebrate the final writing pieces, collaboration, and hard work of the college mentors and middle school mentees. 

Featuring 21 seventh and eighth grade students and their corresponding Chapman mentors, this writing program provided a space for Santiago participants to develop their writing skills in an after-school setting while the Chapman students experienced facilitating the writing process. Led by Dr. Amy Ardell, assistant professor in the Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, the after-school programs offered hands-on practice of instruction. The program was part of the Chapman course IES 412: Teaching Writing K-12.

Elizabeth Gimple (BA in IES and Theatre ‘21) reflected upon the positive experience of developing her mentorship within the program: “I learned the beauty of growing with my students as a teacher and mentor.” 

From selecting their own topics to having autonomy in generating their ideas and developing their creative writing, Santiago students experienced the freedom and joys of writing. Santiago participant Ava Castaneda affirmed her independence in writing and stated, “there were no constraints about what you could write about.” 

In addition to cultivating their writing development through brainstorming, drafting, and revising their written works, the Santiago students were encouraged to develop a genuine passion for writing.

During the publishing party, Santiago parent Christina Rodriguez commented on her son’s developed love for writing. “This program ignited his passion for the creative writing process and provided a space that is not always available during the school day,” she said. “It was the first time that my son was writing for fun at home. That was a huge takeaway for me for the program.”

Throughout the 10 weeks, the mentors and mentees created personal relationships that assisted in writing development and introduced positive collegiate role modeling. Several Santiago students commented on the benefits of working with their Chapman mentors. Tomi Malomo stated, “My favorite part about the Chapman Writing Project was getting to work with older, more experienced writers.” Another middle school participant, Lauren Thai, expressed her gratitude that her mentors showed her “how to write a letter to the editor for the first time.” 

The publishing party opened with warm introductions and meaningful congratulations from Dr. Ardell and Santiago teacher and Chapman alumna Amy Sara Lim (IES ’20, MACI ’21). During the event, both the Chapman and Santiago students were recognized for their accomplishments and read their pieces aloud to family and friends. Along with snacks, a copy of the completed anthology, which included the students’ work, was given to each participant. 

The Chapman-Santiago Middle School Publishing Party, and the entire writing program, would not have been possible without the support of Santiago’s administration, leadership within the Attallah College, and the generous donations of the Christine and Lon Cross and the Lloyd and Elisabeth Klein Legacy Foundation.

The project will continue in Spring 2022 at McPherson Magnet Middle School, also in Orange Unified School District.