Hazelwood West High School was one of 14 schools named recipients of a grant from the Art and Education Council’s Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teachers last October. Hazelwood West used the grant to support a much-anticipated, yearly tradition, Writers Week.

Started by the English Department at Hazelwood West High School 11 years ago, Writers Week is a unique platform that allows students, teachers and professional writers to present original stories, essays, poems and songs to the student body. Presentations are chosen based on the diversity of cultures and topics that are submitted in order to represent their community.

Dina Patterson shared, “As English teachers, we know that the arts and the written word are paths to cultivating empathy for others in our diverse community and in our ever-changing world”

During Writers Week, students can find common ground and discover how alike they are with their fellow students and their teachers. Student submissions have included themes on identity, love, creativity, social issues and growing up in the form of song, SLAM poetry, narratives and plays. Teachers have submitted works on loss, growing up and growing old.

Patterson said, “Writers Week levels the field between old and young, teachers and students and humanizes all.”

In addition to presentations from the student-body and their teachers, professional writers are also invited to participate. Writing professionals share their experiences and often encourage the students to pursue careers that are driven by writing and creative collaboration. some students even have their first experience of live theater during Writers Week, like through a performance by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, an Arts and Education Council grantee.

A recent addition to the Writers week is the The Wrap Up, an evening fair that allows students another opportunity to discuss writing with professionals.

Patterson shard how these interactions with professionals benefits their students, “Investigative journalists, photojournalists, songwriters, entrepreneurs, musicians, professional actors, independent authors, well-known authors and poets have encouraged our students to think about the writing process as an all-encompassing art form that penetrates into everyday life.”

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Applications for the Maritz Arts and Education Fund for Teaches will open this summer. Learn more about the Arts and Education Council's grants here.