Program Highlights

Art & Lit Project: Blackout Poetry

By Liz Delaney, Social Media Intern

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At Words Alive, we strive to inspire young people to read by showing them how words on a page can relate to their own lives and even transform into something new. Once a year, we welcome our Adolescent Book Group (ABG) students to participate in our Art & Lit Project, a program-wide project that enhances the reading experience and encourages them to think critically about themes in the book and their own environment.

This year’s project, called "The Radius of All of Us" is a response to The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt. This unique exhibition is designed by community artist Sue Britt, facilitated by Words Alive, and created by students attending alternative schools from North County to the border!

Alongside the art project, ABG students made new meaning from the book’s pages by creating blackout poems. In The Radius of Us, we learn that art is a powerful tool for expression from one character who refuses to speak after his traumatic journey to the U.S.; and the poetry here is designed in black and white to honor the illustration style he used to tell his story.

Blackout poetry is a transformative creative writing process. John DePasquale from Scholastic states, “the words for blackout poems are already written on the page, but it’s up to the blackout poet to bring new meaning and life to these words... Using the pages of an existing text, blackout poets isolate then piece together single words or short phrases from these texts to create lyrical masterpieces.”

In this collection, you’ll find an array of poems written from the words of the same story – a reflection of the way in which we all perceive the world around us differently. A few of their poems can be seen above and some of our favorites read:

“I felt alone through the dark/heaviness pressed down on me/I wanted rest./I left/I am free”

“I’m struggling/my heart is racing/my eyes are blurring/I feel the/p/a/i/n”

“beautiful/love/my heart/is insane”

Join us from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 5th at the San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego to see these poem and the student’s art work in person! RSVP for the event here.


In conjunction with this project, and in partnership with Jewish Family Service, we are collecting donations of new socks and underwear for Jewish Family Service’s new shelter for asylum seekers. Please donate new socks and underwear for children in all sizes and for adults in size small. Bring items to the Words Alive office through June 5 or to the exhibition at San Diego Art Institute.





Art & Lit Project: Doing Our Small Part to Help Asylum Seekers

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern & Sara Mortensen, Communications Manager

Image of a student holding up the welcome cards she wrote to asylum seekers.

Image of a student holding up the welcome cards she wrote to asylum seekers.

Every year, Words Alive facilitates an art project with our teen students. “The Radius of All of Us” is a unique exhibition inspired by Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us, designed by community artist Sue Britt, facilitated by Words Alive, and created by students attending alternative schools from North County to the border. Through creative writing and art, students connect the novel to the world as they explore themes of perception and transformation and grapple with the complex issues of trauma and immigration.

In The Radius of Us, Phoenix, one of the main protagonists, is an asylum seeker from El Salvador. He fled his home country due to gang violence and is looking for a new start for himself and his younger brother. As we connect Phoenix’s immigration experience in The Radius of Us to what’s happening in our world, we are doing our small part to help those seeking asylum in our community.

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Working alongside Jewish Family Service, we’re collecting donations of new socks and underwear — the items most requested by people crossing the border. All youth sizes and adult size small are needed. The clothing will benefit families staying at the Jewish Family Service shelter for asylum seekers. Jewish Family Service is a “client-centered, impact-driven organization working to build a stronger, healthier, more resilient San Diego “ that makes a “difference in the lives of more than 32,000 people every year”. These donations are extremely important and needed due to the fact that these people are trying to start a new life in a new country.

In addition, students at many of our classrooms are writing welcome letters to refugees and asylum seekers. In The Radius of Us, Phoenix has mixed experiences when he comes to the United States. He is welcomed into the home of Sally and Amanda while at the same time he is seen as suspicious and dangerous by other members of the community. By writing these welcome letters, students will be helping to make refugees and asylum seekers coming through the San Diego border know that there are people who are rooting for them to succeed in the United States and that there are people who are happy that they are here.

At Words Alive, we are proud of our students for taking part in this project to help others. Please donate today if you can! We are accepting sock and underwear donations at the Words Alive office until June 4th. You can also donate at our Art & Lit Exhibit, where you can see our student’s final art projects. Join us from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5th at the San Diego Art Institute.

Announcing the 2019-2020 Words Alive Westreich Scholars!

“I want to become a school counselor to help other youth understand the importance of education… As a school counselor, I will be able to counsel students about the power of their choices and teach them the same skills that helped me to succeed. The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship will help me to further my education and effectively use my personal experiences to relate to students.”
Brittany Jackson, Words Alive Westreich Scholar & Mentor

An image of three of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony: Antonise Stewart (left), Domminiece Willis (middle), and Brittany Jackson (right).

An image of three of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony: Antonise Stewart (left), Domminiece Willis (middle), and Brittany Jackson (right).

Here at Words Alive, we are incredibly excited to announce our Words Alive Westreich Scholars for the 2019-2020 school year! The transition from high school to college is difficult enough as it is, but when you have to navigate housing and food insecurity, child care, a lack of positive adult mentors, and much more, succeeding in school becomes that much harder. We all deserve to pursue our passions through education, and all our our scholars exemplify how a little support can go a long way.

Brittany Jackson was a Words Alive Westreich Scholar all throughout her time at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She developed a strong relationship with her Words Alive mentor, Sarah Archibald, who helped her along the way. She graduated, came back to San Diego, and then started volunteering with us as a mentor. Now, as she pursues her Masters at the University of San Diego, she has become a Words Alive first by being both a scholar and a mentor in the program!

Lexi, Zaphire, and Domminiece all graduated with Associate’s degrees last May and all started at San Diego State University this past fall. Just like the transition from high school to community college, the transition from community college to a four-year university presents its own challenges. They all struggled in their own ways but in their struggle learned more about themselves and what they needed to do to succeed. Along the way, our WAWS workshops provided support in terms of professional and personal development, and helped them learned skills such as time management, networking, and financial literacy.

Janett, one of our first-year scholars, went back to high school in her early 20s and is now earning her diploma. She is dedicated to using her lived experiences to relate to students and guide them on a positive path as a school counselor.

Each one of our scholars has a story like this — full of perseverance, passion, and determination. With help from the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship through financial, professional development, and mentor support, we are so excited to see what they do in their next chapter.

Learn more about each one of our scholars below!

Paulina Aguilar-Lino is a returning scholar and a student at Southwestern College. She is studying Recording Arts & Technology.

“The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship has helped me greatly as well in remaining determined to accomplish my goals. I’ve learned that all I really need is within my heart and my heart is always with my family.”

Zaphire Alonso is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego State University. She is studying Social Work.

“This experience showed me that I am determined and capable of overcoming any adversity in my life. The sensation of my future being in limbo helped me find solutions and manage the problem.”

Rose Gonzalez is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego State University. She is studying Criminal Justice.

“I have learned through this experience not to take my education and the opportunities offered to me for granted, such as my Guardian Scholars and Words Alive Westreich Scholarships. I am committed to succeeding in my academic work.”

Diana Gonzalez-Soto is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego City College. She is studying English.

“I learned that I possess the skills of leadership, advocacy, communication, collaboration, determination and resilience. I believe my story is unique, I know my experience is not common. This experience taught me that all my roles in society, student, mother, social justice activist, give me the qualifications to help build a better world and pave the way for the next generation.”

Ulises Izucar is a returning scholar and a student at Point Loma Nazarene University. He is studying Graphic Design with an Illustration Concentration.

“I learned how to handle myself better and how to reach out to friends and mentors. I learned to speak up and ask for help when I need it and not to be ashamed of it.”

Brittany Jackson is a returning scholar and is pursuing her Masters at the University of San Diego. She is studying School Counseling, PPS.

“I grew up in an environment that glorified gangs and drugs over an education… An education taught me critical thinking skills I need to succeed, not only in school, but also in life. For example, school taught me that I have an aptitude for helping others, and I am happiest when I am doing so.”

Lexi Martinez is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego State University. She is studying Social Work.

“One resource provided by the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship that I am eternally grateful for is our mentors. At this point in my semester I turned to Sarah, my amazing mentor, for guidance… With Sarah’s help we made a set of guidelines for a more successful semester.”

Itzel Nuñez is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego City College. She is studying Administration of Justice/Paralegal.

“This experience taught me an important life lesson: to take risks on opportunities even though I believe I am not qualified.”

Janett Penaloza is a first-year scholar and a student at San Diego City College. She is studying Counseling and Therapy.

“There are too many youth in the neighborhood who feel and believe they are alone in their struggles. They are not. This is why I must give back and be a part of society to make a positive change. I have persevered, I am motivated, I am focused, I believe in myself because education had taught me that knowledge is power and that power is a positive change.”

Daimeon Rodriguez is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego City College. He is studying Software and Computer Engineering.

“I believe I have improved and have more purpose moving forward to a bright, happy, prosperous future with whatever comes my way.”

Esther Servin is a first-year scholar and a student at Palomar College. She is studying Mechanics.

“I had an epiphany and realized that the things that I wanted to do were not a smart way to move forward and that I had to do something so that my children could gain more than street life knowledge… I learned that attending school could get me out of the street life and getting an education could help my community.”

Lanyra Smith is a first-year scholar and a student at San Diego City College. She is studying Psychology.

“I am firmly committed at this point to pursuing a career in the field of psychology… I know that I am passionate about mental health and dedicated to giving back to my people and my community.”

Antonise Stewart is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego City College. She is studying Information Security.

“It may be scary, I may stumble along the way but I can’t always waste my life worrying about the what ifs. Helping that student, I acknowledged that fear was my weakness and once knowing that I can grow from this flaw to become a stronger, better me.”

Andrea Vasquez is a first-year scholar and a student at Grossmont. She is studying Biology.

“I know that becoming a doctor won’t be easy, but I also know that it can be done if I am committed to accomplishing my goal… This entire process will take quite some time but I’m ready to go through with it until the very end if it means making myself, my sisters, and, most importantly, my mom proud.”

Domminiece Willis is a returning scholar and a student at San Diego State University. She is studying Child Development.

“I have grown to learn that despite my hardships, I have achieved so much greatness. The odds have been against me, and I have overcome them…My sun will always shine at the end of the rainstorms and the greater my struggles, the more glorious my triumphs will be.”

To recognize the 2019-2020 scholarship recipients, Words Alive will host its annual Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Awards Ceremony from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4 at San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Blvd. in downtown San Diego. Mark your calendars and join us in celebrating these incredible scholars!

The Radius of All of Us: Words Alive's Annual Art & Lit Exhibit

At Words Alive, we believe that reading becomes truly exciting, joyful and inspiring to young people when they see how words on a page can relate to their own lives and even transform into something new.

Once a year, we work to bring books alive in a different way for our ABG students by welcoming them to participate in our Art & Lit Project. ABG students participate in a program-wide project that enhances the reading experience and encourages them to think critically about themes in the book and their own environment – all while having fun and creating their very own piece of art.

Words Alive's Adolescent Book Group brings books alive for teenagers facing extraordinary circumstances such as homelessness, violence, teen pregnancy and impact by the justice system. Trained Words Alive facilitators deliver a Common Core-aligned curriculum of hands-on projects, creative writing exercises and discussion prompts specifically designed to spark students’ love of reading, enhance critical thinking skills and boost self-esteem.

About the Book

This year’s project, called "The Radius of All of Us" is a response to The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt.

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Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Through working on this project, students will connect the novel to their world by exploring themes of perception and transformation while grappling with the complex issues of trauma and immigration.

About the Art

This thought-provoking work, designed by community artist Sue Britt, showcases the deep ways in which students can connect literature to art, themselves and the world.

The characters in the The Radius of Us perceive and are perceived in ways that evolve as their stories and personalities are better known to others. Perceptions and the words we use to describe other people and ourselves create the radius of each of us; each word forming a boundary of limitations.

Words around the circle represent labels that are placed on the student by others or themselves.

Words around the circle represent labels that are placed on the student by others or themselves.

But as we trust enough to share our inner selves, our circle can expand and be blown wide open; although, as realized through literally blowing alcohol ink across the page with a straw, breaking these boundaries can be a challenging process with unexpected results. And still, the words that make up our circle do not go away but remain part of our transformed selves.

Relationships are represented in the work through each drop of ink within the circle. Initially, each drop forms a hard edge, but as drops collide and interact with one another, they change shape and color to symbolize the ways our relationships with others affect who we are. Behind each work, a transparent color reflects the light we shine on those around us.

Each student’s radius, created on translucent paper, comes together with their peers’ work to form a phoenix – a mythological bird reborn from its ashes – a symbol of how trust and sharing with others can lead to personal growth and transformation.

To see the culmination of our students’ work, and the final phoenixes, join us for a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 5th at the San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego. RSVP for the event here.


In conjunction with this project, and in partnership with Jewish Family Service, we are collecting donations of new socks and underwear for Jewish Family Service’s new shelter for asylum seekers. Please donate new socks and underwear for children in all sizes and for adults in size small. Bring items to the Words Alive office through June 5 or to the exhibition at San Diego Art Institute.


A New Perspective on ABG

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

An image of an ABG student working on a writing prompt.

An image of an ABG student working on a writing prompt.

As I walked into Monarch School in downtown San Diego, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew that I would be sitting in on an Adolescent Book Group to get a sense of what Words Alive volunteers do and see how it affects the teens. When Jeffery Goldman, Words Alive volunteer and former Board Chair,walked into the lobby and took me to the classroom, he gave me more details about the school, specifically how every child who walks through the doors has been affected by homelessness.  

What struck me immediately was the excitement from the students to partake in the warm up activities. Jeffery tasked the kids with writing as many words ending with “r”, then “t”, then “e” in a minute. While all the kids focused on their own task at hand, however, there was still a level of collaboration with one another. The desire for each student to help their classmate was evident, giving the exercise a new depth. While it was a friendly competition, they wanted each other to succeed.

Next, Jeffery gave them their writing assignment for the session that would be turned in via Google Docs before the next time he meets with them. Since they were reading Night by Elie Wiesel, the writing topic was “when was there a time when you felt as if you lost hope, but overcame it.” This question obviously can get quite personal, but many of the students took it head on, while others pondered on what they might write about. Watching the natural writing process in these young students was inspiring and really brought me back to when I was young, first experiencing writer's block or nerves of starting to put words on paper. All that being said, the support from Jeffery, their teacher and fellow classmates got the ball rolling for most and those who didn’t finish their work knew that they could thaw out their ideas in time and share it with Jeffery when they were ready.

One student shared her piece with the class, about when her father fell and hit his head and had to go to the hospital. I was taken aback by how eloquent her story was and how much bravery it took to share her story, especially at her age. Upon leaving, Jeffery and I talked about the program. He explained that that the stories they kids tell are truly incredible and can even move him (or many) to tears.

As I got in my car and looked over my notes before leaving, I was particularly moved by how these kids threw themselves onto the page, or at least made the effort to. It reminded me of my own time in middle school a decade ago, and how vulnerable that can be but how important that process is. Self expression through writing can be one of the best ways to release or understand your own emotions or thoughts, in my personal opinion. The fact that Words Alive not only sees that, but promotes it to young children makes me particularly happy to be working (and writing) for this organization.  




WAWS Spotlight: Ulises Izucar!

An image of Ulises at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Ulises at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

Ulises was born in Jonacatepec, Mexico. He is a first generation college student attending Point Loma Nazarene University and is studying Graphic Design. In his free time, he likes helping out at Rollin' From The Heart. Ulises is an artist and will be debuting his work at the Words Alive Art & Literacy Event on June 5th from 6-8pm at the San Diego Art Institute. Join us in this celebration of magical things that can happen when we use books to inspire the artist in all of us!

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from Ulises!

Name: Ulises Izucar

Age: 19

College: Point Loma Nazarene University

Degree (with area of study): Graphic Design

High School: Monarch

Mentor: Jess Fryman

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I was in a the Adolescent Book Group at Monarch School.

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

Words Alive was one of the things that helped me get into reading.

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

Becoming a young life leader, passing macro economics, and making new friends.

What are you currently reading?

Further Along the Road Less Traveled.



WAWS Spotlight: Lexi Martinez!

An image of Lexi (left) with our Teen Services Program Manager Jessica Fryman at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Lexi (left) with our Teen Services Program Manager Jessica Fryman at the 2018 WAWS Scholarship Award Ceremony.

"My experience with Words Alive has always been extremely positive. My love for reading has been restored since I have been involved with them and I've always found a support system within the organization." -- Lexi Martinez, Words Alive Westreich Scholar

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from one of our scholars: Lexi!

Name: Zaira "Lexi" Martinez

Age: 23

College: San Diego State University

Degree (with area of study): Social Work

Mentor: Sarah Beauchemin

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I first got involved in Words Alive when I became a student at Monarch. Reading has always been an escape for me and after my family and I were left without a stable home when my mom divorced her abusive husband, Words Alive provided an escape for me. I loved all the books we read, the discussions, and finding out which book we were going to read next. Once again, books became an escape for me and I loved being a part of a community of open and like minded individuals. 

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

Looking back and reflecting on where I am, Words Alive has positively affected my academic career in many ways. In high school there was a time where I did not see myself going to college or making improvements to my life but the volunteers always pushed me to do my best. The books we read were stories about resilience and overcoming obstacles made by others and ourselves. They were stories that were so relatable to my own life and it made gave me the strength to discover a better life for myself. I always felt like I belonged and someone knew how to empathize with what I had been through. After I received my scholarship, I was so motivated to do better because I knew someone believed in me and I did not want to disappoint. All of the workshops that we have done have taught me life skills and my meetings with my mentor are outings that I anticipate so I can tell Sarah all of my plans and exciting news that happened that month. I am so proud of the person that I have become with the help of my Words Alive family. 

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

This year I have accomplished, with the help from Sarah, a more organized academic schedule which includes writing more in my planner, forming professional relationships with my professors, living a healthier lifestyle, and working on self-care. We made this plan in the beginning of the semester and I feel like a better person. I no longer stress too much from my heavy course-load because of how evenly distributed it is. I also have much more time to dedicate to myself and my family. 

What is your favorite college memory so far?

My favorite college memory is transferring from San Diego City College to San Diego State University. Until a few years, higher education was not even on my radar but now I am in my dream program enjoying all the possibilities laid out in front of me and it is overwhelming in the best way. I can't even imagine where I would be had I not come to Monarch and been a part of Words Alive. 

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I watched one episode of the show and I was so enthralled by it that I wanted to read the book first. 


Learn more about the WAWS program here and donate today to help us keep this scholarship going!

 

WAWS Evaluation Finding #8: "I believe in my future."

A group photo of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

A group photo of our scholars at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the eighth and final finding!

"I believe in my future."

All scholars in the program are graduates of Juvenile Court & Community Schools, which serves a student body experiencing extraordinary challenges such as juvenile delinquency, homelessness, community violence and/or teen parenting. Because of this, they are often focused on the present, getting through day-by-day and making sure their basic, immediate needs are met. Through our interviews with participants and mentors, we found that many of the scholars made clear connections between participating in the program and a discovered or renewed focus on their future. In fact, 92% of the students said they now feel more hopeful about their education and future.

Due to the extraordinary circumstances these students come from, scholars often felt as if they were not in control of their own lives but were instead trapped by their upbringing and environment. However, we found that after participating in the program, the financial, mentor and professional development aspects of the program have helped scholars believe in themselves, their futures and their abilities — creating a sense of agency over their personal and academic trajectory. This translates to students taking action toward improving their future.

 After participating in the program,

  • 85% of scholars said they now use coping strategies to address challenges they face

  • 85% of scholars said they now take action steps toward the goals they set

  • 100% of scholars said they the now take advantage of academic, professional and community resources

Mentors recognize this growth too:

“I think she sees each of these accomplishments as milestones – and they are. It supports her sense of self-worth, value and confidence. For some people, it’s easy, but for her it has been incredibly challenging. Every single milestone increases her confidence. And she’s facing this hurdle now but she’s not going to give up.”

Two scholars mentioned they actively plan ahead in terms of applying for additional scholarships, saying, “I’m saving scholarships for further down the line” or “I’ve been going over my statements more. I figure out when different scholarships are coming in and when the deadlines to apply are.”

“I had never saved money before and the scholarship program taught me how to…I’m planning on buying a house. Not anytime soon but hopefully in 10 years or so,” another scholar said. “I have the skills to save money now and the motivation to buy a house.” – Scholar, age 24

This same scholar, when asked about how she dealt with challenges, such as persistent mental health issues, throughout her college career said, “I realize I have to focus on my future. The depression and PTSD were because of my past experiences. I learned that I could change things now, so I won’t be in the same situation later on. I need to believe in my future.”

Significance

At Words Alive, we want participants in all of our programs to become advocates for themselves and their future, especially so in the WAWS program. This finding indicates that through program participation, scholars are learning to proactively contribute to their own personal development by creating long-term goals and that they’re making steps towards meeting them. This is not only significant to the individual student but to the larger community. By becoming individuals who are no longer just getting by day-by-day, they are prepared to contribute to local economies, culture, politics, and to help their communities thrive.

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship here!


WAWS Evaluation Finding #7: The Mentee Becomes the Mentor

An image of three of our scholars, Zaphire, Domminiece, and Lexi, standing together at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of three of our scholars, Zaphire, Domminiece, and Lexi, standing together at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the seventh finding!

The Mentee Becomes the Mentor

We were surprised to find that through participating in the program and developing a relationship with their mentors, our scholars in turn became mentors for their peers.

When asked what they were passionate about, six out of nine of the scholars interviewed said “helping people.” Many of the scholars are pursuing careers such as social work, therapy, and child development with the ultimate goal of helping youth that have similar stories to their own.

In addition, many of the scholars spoke directly about becoming mentors for their peers. One scholar said:

“Now, I pass on the advice my mentors have given me to other people. I’m a mentor for some of the students at Lindsay because I’ve been in their shoes. It’s good to share your experience because they can see a role model and can relate to you. It gives them faith that things will work out… I just try to be a helping person and when someone’s experiencing a lot of emotions I try to be a calming presence like the calming presence my mentors have been for me. I’ve learned to ask for help and people still ask me for help.” – Scholar, age 22

It's clear from this example and others that being a mentor wasn’t necessarily an innate skill the scholars possessed, but something they learned through their relationship with their WAWS mentor. This statement from one of our scholars illustrates the range of skills these students learned from their mentors:

“I valued [my mentor’s] honesty. She would be upfront but in a professional way. I learned how to be that way with other people. ‘Let’s go grab coffee’ is not something I had done before but now do with other people.” – Scholar, age 24

Significance

One of our intended impacts for this program is that scholars form healthy and meaningful relationships with their peers and adults. Because of their upbringing, many of our scholars lack healthy adult relationships in their lives. To see the students develop relationship-building skills and then become a mentoring force in their community is significant because it proves that the scholars can learn the basic tenets of a healthy relationship and give and take in positive ways in those relationships.

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship here!


WAWS Spotlight: Alicia Osuna

An image of Alicia and her mentor Kerrie standing in front of a sign for Every Brilliant Thing, a play that they went to see together.

An image of Alicia and her mentor Kerrie standing in front of a sign for Every Brilliant Thing, a play that they went to see together.

We’d like to introduce you to another one of our incredible scholars! Alicia is in her second year at San Diego City College studying biology. In addition to being a star student she is a star athlete and a member of the San Diego City College Lady Knights basketball team.

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from Alicia!

Name: Alicia Osuna

Age: 20

College: San Diego City College

Area of Study: Biology

High School: Monarch School

Mentor: Kerrie Libby

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I first involved with Words Alive when I was in high school at Monarch. I was in the Adolescent Book Group.

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

It's been great. I love the support I get from my mentor. I enjoy the activities they have for us.

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

I got good grades in college. I made it through my first year of college and am now working on my second.

Tell us about your favorite college memory.

In my English class, I had to write a paper on this book I was reading and it was honestly the best book book. Another one of my favorite memories was being apart of my basketball team, they are so great.