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Stimulating Student Reading and Writing Interests


At KzooConnect, we believe in the power of sharing the great work being done in our community. We felt like it would be a good idea to focus on a local nonprofit organization that is committed to nurturing intellectual and creative confidence.

Originally founded by Anne Hensley and Emily Kastner through a grant from the Vine Neighborhood Association, Read and Write Kalamazoo’s (RAWK) mission has been to celebrate and amplify youth voices through the cultivation of reading and writing skills. Now in its eighth year, the level of growth that the nonprofit has experienced is impressive to say the least.

“In 2013, we started with 16 middle school students in our writing camp,” Executive Director Nicki Poer recalled of RAWK’s early days. “Fast forward to the summer of 2018 when had over 500 seats filled in our summer programs."

Nowadays, RAWK offers a wide selection of programs and opportunities that serve its ever-expanding audience base.

“We offer after-school programming at our literacy center on the corner of Vine and Westnedge, as well as storytelling and bookmaking field trips where a class writes a book and our team publishes it via an onsite book binding machine,” Poer explained.

Additionally, RAWK offers workshops, writing camps, virtual classes, and RAWK Reader’s Rooms in an effort to create a student-centered environment for holistic learning. To ensure that more young minds are exposed to these kinds of literacy programs, partnerships with Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) and The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise) were formed.

“In partnership with KPS, RAWK offers support for classroom teachers by providing a team of staff members and trained volunteers that give students supplemental one-on-one and small group support during the school day,” Poer shared. “As we shifted to virtual programming this summer due to COVID-19, we delivered books and loaned laptops to meet the needs of individuals who need extra resources. Field trips for the 3rd Grade at Northeastern School were made possible by The Promise."

Of course, none of these programs would be possible without grants courtesy of the many supportive foundations here in Kalamazoo County. The team at RAWK recognizes how helpful the community has been and are thankful that the organization has such a dedicated support system.

“Sometimes I think people don’t realize what we have in our community,” she said. “We have educational opportunities, nonprofits, an art institute, theatres, a symphony, and the Air Zoo. Those type of resources do not exist all together in many other cities.”

You are preaching to the choir, Nicki! Are you interested in being a part of RAWK’s goal, but unsure of your writing abilities? Do not fret; the only requirement for volunteers is a desire to help and some training! Contact the organization to set up your two-hour training session.

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