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Students Getting A Close Look At College Life While Honing In On Writing Skills

Young Writers Workshop

July 20, 2023 -- Bigger classrooms, specialized topics, and acres of campus to explore. Those are just three college-like things Columbus City Schools students are getting a taste of while participating in a Young Writers Workshop at The Ohio State University.

“I feel like coming here, I always find another interest.” Whether that’s an interest in writing or college life, Columbus Alternative High School Senior Reed Winters is still discovering a lot about himself during his second year in the workshop.

The week-long July workshop started in 2008 when a CCS graduate taking creative writing classes at Ohio State University wanted to create a writing partnership between OSU and CCS. The goal: to create a way for CCS students to gain writing guidance while living on campus with others for one week.

“Last year, it was intimidating at first, but we all stay in the same dorms. We’re all in such close proximity that you quickly get to know everyone. It becomes a lot more of a friend group,” Winters said.

Winters applied for the program as an incoming Junior at CAHS. His mother, a writer and English teacher, encouraged students interested in writing and publishing work to apply. Winters was one of only 30 students accepted in this summer’s cohort. 

“We don’t ask for their GPA; we don’t want to know if they’re great students,” said Young Writer Workshop Director MaryKatherine Ramsey. “All we want to know is do they want to they show promise as writers. We get students from all different schools and backgrounds, but the one common thing is that they’re creative people.”

Young Writers WorkshopThe program lets rising juniors and seniors pick one of three genres to study: Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and Fiction. Winters said fiction was the genre he selected both times, but it was not the genre was not that pushed him most as a writer.

“I remember when I did creative nonfiction, I enjoyed that a lot because when we think of nonfiction, we think of biographies and textbooks. It was actually a lot of fun to write about [my] experiences. I just thought it was interesting to write about a memory of mine but put this creative spin on it with symbolism and metaphors and realizing how things like that can fit in and create this narrative out of my own life,” Winters said.

Ramsey said seeing students learn new things is one reason she continues to come back and help run the program after 15 years. However, that’s not the main point she wants students to take away from the week-long workshop.

“Belonging. I want them to feel that they belong here on campus. That they belong here with us, that they belong with each other, that they belong in a community of thinkers. Just that they belong,” Ramsey said. “I’m a person who dropped out of high school. I could have just as easily ended up in prison as I did in college, and I got lucky. That’s because I had individuals who helped me along the way, but I hope they get that in this one week.”

Ramsey said creating a real community gives students a support system while strengthening skills in an area they love.

“When I first started teaching here in 2008, one of the students from that year came to my house for Thanksgiving last year,” Ramsey said. 

Winters said those are the connections incoming juniors and seniors can expect from participating in the workshop. 

“My favorite thing is just being able to walk around campus with a group of friends, and sort of, explore, even though that has nothing to do with the writing. Coming here, I always find another interest. Whether it’s in poetry or creative nonfiction, I find I enjoy it a lot more than I thought. I always leave thinking, ‘I should become a writer.’”

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