By MOLLY HODGES
Ethan Bottone, a junior geography and biology double major, and the Writing Center and Writing Program Director Gwendolyn Hale were recently honored with the Southeastern Writing Center Association’s Christine Cozzens Research Grant and Initiative Award for their program “Virginia is for Writers.
The duo plans to use the $300 grant to kick-start their program, which is intended to establish writing centers in underserved high schools throughout Virginia.
This semester, the University of Mary Washington Writing Center will initiate collaborations with Bottone’s alma mater, Nandua High School, located in Melfa, Va.
“If I can help them go to college by raising their test scores and their writing skills, then I feel like I’m doing something to help my hometown,” said Bottone.
According to Hale, their goal is to work with 10 high schools per semester and ultimately establish a writing center in every county and independent city in Virginia by 2015.
The UMW Writing Center has also reached out to Arcadia High School located in Oak Hill, Va.
The efficacy of the program will be evaluated based on the grades, surveys and admissions of program participants.
“By establishing this Writing Center, the UMW’s Writing Centers will offer training, support, website assistance and tutorials [and] handouts for students,” said Hale in a letter to the principals of Virginia high schools.
According to Hale, the UMW Writing Center will provide the impetus and the training with the intention that the high school writing centers will ultimately become self-sufficient and potentially become inspired to help neighboring middle schools develop their own writing centers.
“Schools only need at least one teacher to head up the center and identify students who would make good, reliable, teachable tutors and a modest space such as an office, classroom or library space,” said Hale in the letter.
According to Hale, the model for the high school sister centers will be flexible.
“We’re trying to make it organic to their schools,” said Hale.
Bottone began working on the program as his final project for the peer writing tutoring course.
Bottone’s initial goal was to develop a writing center in a third-world country, but Hale and Bottone agreed to start on a smaller scale with the possibility of expanding, should funds permit.
“I get to work with some of the best and brightest and most motivated students on campus,” said Hale regarding her work with Bottone and other UMW Writing Center student tutors.