Off and on (mostly on) since 1990, I have spent a good part of my summers at the Bread Loaf Graduate School of English, near Middlebury in Vermont’s Green Mountains. You are probably already aware of this MA program, certainly so if you have read my posts over the last six years, and know that I am a big fan of Bread Loaf—especially of the teachers who arrive each summer to pursue the study of language, literature, writing, rhetoric, and performance.
This summer I am not teaching (I’m now supposed to be retired!), but I spent a week on the mountain reading, writing, and talking with teachers about their students, about student writing and reading, and about their plans for this next school year. As always, I came away deeply inspired by what I learned. While I could talk glowingly about the Ken Macrorie writing centers, which I helped to start a few years ago and which are thriving under the leadership of Beverly Moss, or about the fabulous courses Brenda Brueggemann is teaching about disabilities and literature and about writing pedagogy, or about the brilliant production of Othello that the theater group mounted from scratch, I came away most excited about the Next Generation Leadership Network, an initiative of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network (led by Beverly and Dixie Goswami), Middlebury College, and Georgia Tech’s Westside Community Alliance (spearheaded by the incomparable Jackie Royster).
Funded by the Ford Foundation, the NGLN will engage young people, ages fifteen to twenty-one, in underserved communities across the nation. The program will help in developing robust knowledge and leadership, as well as organizing networked social, civic, and academic activities aimed at strengthening public and community-based education. The leaders of this project draw on grass roots initiatives in Lawrence, MA; Atlanta, GA; rural South Carolina; Appalachian Kentucky; the Navajo Nation; and rural Vermont to form social action teams aiming to change the national narrative about the capabilities, passions, and dreams of youth often viewed as deficient—or simply ignored. Through youth-centered think tanks, where young people and their mentors will gather physically and electronically, the teams will develop strategic plans for individual and collective social action. NGLN is founded on a deep and abiding belief in the strengths of young people to create and share knowledge, to build from experience, and to engage in strategic problem solving that can deeply enrich our understanding of 21st century literacies as multimodal and action centered performances.
Thanks to the determination and very hard work of people like Dixie Goswami, Jackie Royster, Beverly Moss, Lou Bernieri, Ceci Lewis, Brent Peters, Rex Lee Jim, and a host of others, the Next Generation Leadership Network is gearing up for a year of organizing and meeting—and, most of all, listening to young people across the country as they discuss how they hope to realize their potential as national leaders in literacy education. I am expecting big things from all of them!
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