February 28, 2023

Mighty Writers Helps Students Go Beyond the Page

Author Kathryn Lena Kochanowicz, Content Specialist

Mighty Writers wants to teach young people to think critically and communicate their thoughts clearly through the written word. But their mission goes beyond literacy and writing: in addition to helping students become better writers, Mighty Writers aims to empower and strengthen students’ confidence, character and convictions. This Philadelphia-based nonprofit, serving several communities across the city, throughout New Jersey and soon expanding to Harlem in New York City, is making a significant impact.

Through after-school workshops, one-on-one writing mentorships, bilingual opportunities, early literacy education and college and career readiness programs, Mighty Writers serves toddlers to high school seniors. All programs are provided free for students and their families. By the end of the 2021-2022 school year, 91% of Mighty Writers students said they felt enthusiastic about writing, whereas only 45% had felt enthusiastic at the beginning of the year. With 100% of their students graduating from high school, and 97% continuing onto college, it’s clear that Mighty Writers’ methods are making a difference.

Education Director, Maurice Williams, explains that by having students invoke a mantra before every session like, “I am a queen” or “I am a leader,” Mighty Writers creates an engaging and supportive learning environment where students build character while developing their writing skills. “We are experiencing high poverty in our communities, we are experiencing high crime in our communities, and all of these things are taking away from what’s truly important: education, friendship, being involved in your community.”

Mighty Writers isn’t determined to make a professional author or journalist out of every student; being able to think critically and write clearly are valuable skills in the workplace and throughout life. A well-written cover letter and resume can give young people a leg up in an increasingly competitive job market. The opportunities for self-expression and self-advocacy that writing cultivates goes on to serve students the rest of their lives. “Many of our kids don’t have a writing career in mind, but if you know how to write clearly, good things are going to happen,” says Executive Director and Founder, Tim Whitaker.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge to the organization. As after-school programs gave way to empty classrooms, Mighty Writers decided to expand their original mission and began distributing meals (106,500 lunches), groceries (201,000 boxes’ worth), books (21,700), and diapers (2.3 million) to their students’ families and communities. These efforts will continue as part of Mighty Writer’s core mission, having recently taken on the management of the Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank and deepening relationships with other nonprofits on the ground serving kids and families.

This unexpected organizational pivot wouldn’t have been possible without consistent and sustained donor support. Grantmaking from donor-advised funds provides organizations like Mighty Writers with a reliable source of funding, allowing them to continue providing impactful programming even in the face of unpredictable pandemics and uncertain economic conditions. “Donor-advised fund donors are critical to Mighty Writers, and really help when the chips are down,” Whitaker says.

About the Author

Kathryn Lena Kochanowicz is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2019 with a degree in English Literature & Creative Writing, and currently resides in Hatboro, PA.