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After 25 years of promoting literacy in urban schools, the Philadelphia Writing Project decided it was time to pat their many supporters on the back — including Penn’s Graduate School of Education.

On Saturday evening, the Inn at Penn was packed with 165 education advocates for Philadelphia Writing Project’s black tie event.

Praising the work of the individuals and organizations who support PhilWP was the goal of the gala. Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who consistently voted to fund the National Writing Project, was chosen as the guest speaker, and the jazz quintet of the High School for Creative and Performing Arts provided entertainment.

In just a quarter century, PhilWP has developed a network of more than 700 teacher consultants. The organization aims at improving the literacy of students ranging from kindergarten to college. PhilWP intensively draws from literacy research in order to create plans for summer programs, forums and workshops. This philanthropic Philadelphia group is one of over 200 branches of the National Writing Project, which is their biggest sponsor. The message they’re promoting? Write to instigate change.

Penn’s GSE has also been a key sponsor, as it provides infrastructure for the program including office space in the GSE buidling.

“The goal is to emphasize inquisitive thinking among students,” Penn GSE practice professor Diane Waff said.

Recently retired principal of Meade School in Philadelphia Frank Murphy is extremely grateful for the summer program that PhilWP designed specifically for Meade. “It united the staff in a common vision,” he said. “There’s a lot of loyalty to the organization since it’s one of the few that empowers teachers.”

The PhilWP advisory board is currently working to increase access to technology, collaborating with Penn in order to provide workshops for teachers to help them use classroom technologies such as Promethean boards — an interactive version of a blackboard — to their maximum capacity.

“We want children to love and share their writing in as many different ways as possible, including digital writing,” retired PhilWP director Vanessa Brown said. “Writing is a tool for social justice.”

Robert Rivera, PhilWP teaching consultant and a computer literacy teacher at Frances Willard Elementary, has been playing with the concept of technology in the classroom. When his fourth graders were given five new Macs, he decided to teach them digital movie making and podcasting, and even encouraged non-native English speakers to record their voices on Garage Band.

“I see sheer enjoyment of what they’re doing. Seeing their work visually presented gives them a sense of confidence,” he said.

With the recent federal budget cuts, the National Writing Program was defunded last year. PhilWP hopes to raise $10,000 through this fundraiser to help with finances. But with supporters such as Teach for America Summer Bridge Program and Philadelphia Newspapers Incorporated, PhilWP remains standing.

“The outlet to express yourself in your own words is a phenomenal thing. Our youth don’t understand the power of writing to help to sort through their life,” advisory board member Kia Buckner said. “Writing follows you. All of life’s changes — getting married, having babies — keeping a journal helps me through everything.”

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