By Eve Mefferd, College Intern
It was standing (and occasionally running frantically) amongst over 65 volunteers in training, that my time at WriteGirl really came into focus. January 14th was the largest WriteGirl Volunteer Training to date, a packed room filled with men and women with an LA skyline to our backs and up at the front, a presentation miraculously condensing the essence of this organization into just six hours. I got to take part in and help plan this exciting event as a WriteGirl college intern. Helping to organize this training, and working with volunteer liaisons and staff to see that it ran smoothly, provided a different window on WriteGirl than the one I got as a mentee.
As a first year student at Bennington College, I’ve made the trek back from the frozen solid Vermont forests to an uncharacteristically flooded Los Angeles. Each year, Bennington students have a Field Work term for seven weeks, where we take what we’ve learned in the classroom out into the world beyond the aptly named Bennington Bubble and gain practical experience in our fields. It’s a chance to put our theories to the test and back up our ideas with actions.
I joined WriteGirl as a mentee in 9th grade and continued until I graduated high school. I also had an amazing experience as a high school intern the summer before my senior year. It was a crash course in office organization and a trial-by-fire to overcome my inhibitions about phone calls and business networking. Returning now, after a semester of college across the country, has shown me firsthand so many of the intricacies of this organization, the care and intentionality it takes to maintain the quality and volume of work we do.
There’s a kind of magic being in the office. It means getting a behind-the-scenes feature, understanding the groundwork it takes to turn around and unleash a workshop brimming with inspiration, adventure, and creativity. In order to see all our mentees and volunteers at a fantastic workshop, there has to be someone tirelessly going through spreadsheets to make sure every woman and girl is counted. There has to be a procedure for everything, a massive scaffolding on which all future projects must be built. There must also be spontaneity, bursts of creative imagination to elevate events beyond the numbers and plans and into beautiful action. It has been a deeply nurturing experience to be surrounded by these wonderful women who have developed such an expertise, who are filled with such passion for working with teens through creative mentorship.
So, standing in front of the crowd at the Volunteer Training, asked to explain what I love about WriteGirl in a few short words, I had to say community. Because community at WriteGirl is built. It is intentional, created and molded with high goals in mind. The ways in which our workshops are populated isn’t haphazard, but carefully cultivated. What’s more, all of us are constantly learning a veritable moving target of best practices. For every mentee who shows up to a poetry workshop having only ever written journalism, there are surely volunteers feeling giddy for the same reason. But what makes this gutsy, bold, and exuberant group what it is, what makes it work, is a single common feature: a commitment to our mission powerful enough to face every challenge. Be it a budget, a catering order delivered completely crushed, or a first workshop as a new mentor, WriteGirl has to face it with excitement and determination. Even when it seems unforgiving. Even when it’s late nights or sore feet or constant phone calls.
That’s because the real purpose behind every step is the forward momentum. It’s the fact that I’m writing this is a college student, far more empowered, confident, and happy than I was before stepping foot in my first WriteGirl workshop. WriteGirl is about that growth, the belief that begins to fill notebook upon notebook with tenacity and confidence. It’s the fact that even now, I am still a part of this community. It travels with me, budding bigger and bigger each year. The words “never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen” are more important for all of us to remember now than ever before.