Mt. Vernon Middle School is a small alternative school serving 6th through 8th graders in the Raleigh, NC area. Their stated mission is, “to provide all students an opportunity to succeed in character development and academics while becoming more responsible and productive citizens equipped for future challenges.” Mt. Vernon places a high emphasis on building academic achievement while fostering personal growth in a closely supported environment. The student to teacher ratio is 10:1. More information about Mt. Vernon can be found at their website.
Julie Stivers, Mt. Vernon’s librarian, was our liaison and coordinated the preparation of students for Matt de la Pena’s visit. More information about Julie and her work at Mt. Vernon can be found at the library’s website.
Fourteen students were chosen to participate in the week-long artist-in-residency program where they worked in two groups of seven with Matt, learning about creative writing, strategies, dialogue, revising, and the relationship between the reader and writer. A selection process that incorporated student interest and teacher input was used to identify the interested students. Stivers and the Language Arts teachers used the student responses in the selection process.
The 14 selected students prepared extensively for Matt’s visit in a variety of ways, including reading and discussing his books. (See more under Students’ Preparation.) You can follow along with the students’ experiences by following their hashtag on Twitter: #MdlPwriters.
Matt visited during the week of Mt. Vernon’s annual “Career Day”. To accommodate this in the schedule, Matt participated in Career Day as an authority on writing instead of giving a school-wide assembly. In this way, the entire student body was able to meet with him in small groups to hear about his work in a smaller, less formal setting. With many of the groups, Matt even conducted quick writing exercises to explore students’ creativity.
For more details about the student’s experiences, click here.