New Writer’s Room brings back support to the writers of South


Erika Peterson

Lillian Lamb, left, and Ashlyn Ziegler explain their writing project in the Writer’s Room. The Writer’s Room is a new support center at South in partnership with a local nonprofit dedicated to helping students improve their writing. “The emphasis is not on teaching people how to write, it’s on helping them be better writers in whatever way that means for them,” said Sam Oppenheimer the MOI staffer for the Writer’s Room. Photo: Erika Peterson

Erika Peterson, Staff Writer

A new Writer’s Room opened in Room 150 at South on September 25th. This program was created through a partnership with the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, or MOI, a local nonprofit. Full time MOI staffer Sam Oppenheimer and South English teacher Corinth Matera provide support in the Writer’s Room, as well as trained Student Writing Coaches.

Based out of the Seward neighborhood near South, MOI is a nonprofit that “empowers underserved K–12 students to think creatively, write effectively, and succeed academically alongside a community of caring volunteers,” as stated in their mission. The Writer’s Room at South is their first satellite location.

MOI sees it as “a room to write, a catalyst for creativity, and a place where the gallant tigers meet the creatures of the sea…”

This partnership developed when Samantha Sencer-Mura, South graduate ‘07 and Executive Director of MOI, contacted former teacher Matera with the idea of a Writer’s Room at South. The two then applied together for a grant from the Graves Foundation, a group that provides funding to programs focused on providing opportunities to disadvantaged youth. “We just realized, ‘we can do this!’ and it was really, really exciting,” said Matera.

Matera spoke of an average day there; “Ideally, there will be some student writing coaches in the Writer’s Room every hour, so those students will come in and teachers will send other students down, or students might come down on their own during a study hall or aide hour to have a writing conference with those writing coaches…At the same time, there might be whole classes coming in to do a workshop with Sam on some aspect of creative writing.”

Although South used to have a Writing Center, it closed in 2016 because of budget cuts and the costliness of a full-time teaching position. However, Matera is encouraged by the increasing success it had in its time. “It was like getting a dream back that you thought had gone away.”

She also hopes this partnership will bring new opportunities to South that the Writing Center could not. “Unlike Sam, my background and experience is mostly in academic writing, so I’m really happy to have somebody who is really a creative writing person.”

This will allow for help with academic writing as well as individual creative pursuits. “The emphasis is not on teaching people how to write, it’s on helping them be better writers in whatever way that means for them,” says Oppenheimer.

One way MOI plans to work with students at South is the Young Authors Book Project. In this program, an MOI educator visits a class twice a week to create a published writers anthology with the students. For the fourth year of this program, Oppenheimer will be working with the All Nations students at South. She also hopes to use these opportunities to engage students in the services that the Writer’s Room has to offer. “When I go into a class and I teach or help students with their work, I’m making those connections saying ‘hey, this is what I do, I help out with things, we’ll be open on this day.’”

Additionally, Writer’s Room staff hope to grow their personal writing skills. “Everything you do during the course of the day–books you read, people you talk to, conversations you hear–anything can become fodder for writing, and so, talking to students and helping them in their own work will definitely be helpful for me and mine,” said Oppenheimer.

Senior Henry Holcomb, a student writing coach, is “very excited to be surrounded by people who are also excited about their writing and especially those who are making their own creative writing.”

If you are interested in visiting the Writer’s Room, it will be open in room 150 Monday-Thursday with Matera there during first hour and Oppenheimer available from 9-4.