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A new online journal called The Blacktop is creating fresh possibilities for young writers all over Philadelphia.

Organized and operated by students through the Kelly Writers House, Blacktop is a literary magazine which features work from local elementary, middle and high-school students.

College sophomore Allyson Even said she came up with the idea for the publication last year after becoming the outreach coordinator at the Kelly Writers House.

Even quickly saw an opportunity to engage the local community beyond Penn through her work.

“I found it problematic,” she said, to have a “great resource” like the Kelly Writers House only a few blocks away from University City High School — located at 36th and Filbert streets — where only “11 percent of students are proficient in reading and writing,”

After seeing a need for a literary platform for children, Even recruited College sophomore Meghna Chandra and College senior Mark Pan to help launch an online publication designed to empower Philadelphia youth.

“I wanted something for all kids, just to get them writing,” Even added.

In order to get the project going, Even had to begin networking with teachers through the school district, which she said was no easy task.

“Teachers are really hard to reach because their contact information isn’t readily available, and they’re very, very busy,” she said. “It was definitely a slow start.”

Despite initial troubles, the project began to grow. Last month Blacktop received over 50 submissions, leading up to the publication’s debut event “Best of the Blacktop,” where students were invited to the Kelly Writers House to read their work.

It’s great to “see that there are kids out there who enjoyed writing like I did,” College freshman and assistant editor of Blacktop Allison Wattenbarger said. “Writing was … a big part of my childhood.”

Wattenbarger, who discovered in high school she enjoyed teaching children about writing, said the main objective of Blacktop is to help students see the value in their own creative expression.

“Being able to see their work up on a website is something that’s exciting,” she said. It affirms “their creativity.”

The Blacktop’s faculty adviser Michelle Taransky agreed.

“Publishing writing by students is a way of providing them access to a world that they might have thought was not open to them,” she wrote in an email. “The Blacktop shows those students, and those of us in the community, that writing is for everyone.”

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