My brother and I founded PressFriends in 2008 when I was in fifth grade and he was in seventh grade. We had started an elementary school newspaper and had such a good time doing it that we wanted to share what we learned. We wanted to show kids that writing could be fun. We started working with one Title I elementary school in Lawndale. We now work with 8 Title I elementary schools in Lawndale, Gardena, San Pedro, Wilmington, and South Los Angeles and 4 community programs (3 in the South Bay and 1 in South LA). We use the publication of a newspaper as a way to encourage 4th and 5th grade students to write and we use lots of games, speakers and field trips to make the program fun. We have 100 active volunteers and mentor 400-500 elementary students every year. We hold over 100 free mentoring sessions a year.
In 2013, I founded TheatreFriends under PressFriends, and that encouraged other student board members to start SportsFriends, STEMFriends, and DanceFriends. We recognize that they are lots of ways to expand opportunities and encourage learning, and each of our programs has a writing or reading element. These programs are held in summer camps with our afterschool program partners or in community programs like the Boys & Girls Club of LA Harbor.
Our motto is - making friends while making writing fun. We thought that if we made writing fun, kids would write more, and the more they wrote, the better their writing would become. We put together a program that we liked and thought other kids would like, and it worked. The program has attracted a lot of educators, and our adult board includes two former superintendents and two former principals. Our college board is working with one of our adult board members on aligning our program with the writing unit of the Common Core.
Funded by LA South Bay, CA (November 2015)