Leaning over blank sheets of paper, students at Nathaniel S. Colley, Sr. High School quietly write down their deepest personal thoughts, processing things that have happened to them and reflecting on their experiences. Some might have lost family members to violence. Others face personal struggles. The students are all part of a writing workshop run by 916 Ink—a creative writing and literacy program in Sacramento County—where anything and everything is a worthy topic.
For Nayeli, a student at Colley High, the creative writing program is all about personal expression. “What I like about 916 Ink is that you can really express yourself. It’s an easy way to get it out because sometimes I can’t really talk to people. It’s really easy for me to write on paper and let it go.”
916 Ink serves students in first through twelfth grades. It provides literacy tutoring for struggling readers, along with creative writing workshops for English language instruction in school sites across the county. The program is a longtime partner of the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), serving students enrolled in the Court School and Community Schools programs it operates.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to reflect on their own experiences, processing things that have happened to them, but also to be exposed to ideas and unique thoughts from others,” said Nikki Cardoza, Director of Resources for 916 Ink.
The 916 Ink writing seminar runs for 12 weeks. At the end, students can have their work published in an anthology. Since 2010, the nonprofit has transformed more than 4,500 students in the greater Sacramento region into published authors. To date, more than 200 anthologies have been published.
“We can talk about anything we want in there,” said Caesar, another Colley High student. He recently wrote a story about his uncle dying and how that affected him. Classmates enjoyed the story, and Caesar said that made him feel good. “When I went to 916 Ink it made me feel like I was complete. I didn’t have to be shy to tell my story.”
Damon Plant, a 916 Ink writing coach and instructor, enjoys seeing young writers blossom as they break down personal walls. “As the weeks go on, and as we introduce more prompts and more pieces of work to them, they get more excited and more interested,” he said. Plant’s job title, fittingly, is “Wordslinger.”
Publications featuring student work are available for purchase online.