Great Things Come From Hard Work
Poetry Project with President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Concludes with White House Reading

826DC Student, Tiesha Hines, reading for former Poet Laureate Billy Collins before introducing First Lady, Michelle Obama.

On Wednesday, thirteen 826DC students attended poetry workshop and reading at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The students were also joined by poets and songwriters Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Aimee Mann. 826DC student Tiesha Hines introduced Mrs. Obama and read her poem Ten Things I Want to Throw at You.

Creative and expository writing skills are essential for students to be able to express themselves as well as advance in school and the workforce,” said Gerald Richards, CEO of 826 National. Connecting with Mrs. Obama and professional writers is inspirational and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students.

This event at the White House was the culmination of a four-month long poetry workshop for Washington, DC high schools students made possible through a partnership with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and 826DC. Over the course of the program, 15 DC high school students from Ballou Senior High School, Bell Multicultural High School, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Woodrow Wilson High School worked shoulder-to-shoulder with leading poets from around the District and several top universities. On April 25, students met with local DC poets and shared their work with Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

The program was led by poet and professor Kyle Dargan of American University, with special assistance from Carolyn Forche and the Lannan Center of Poetics Social Practice at Georgetown University, and Sally Keith of George Mason University.

In the coming months, the students’ work will be published in an anthology and sold at 826DC. Proceeds from the anthology will go to support 826DC’s free programs.

Through this project we wanted our students to craft poems that would enable them to explore and to harness the power of their own voice,” said Joe Callahan, Executive Director of 826DC.


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826DC would like to thank those people who without their support and encouragement this amazing opportunity wouldn’t have been possible: Olivia Morgan and the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, Kyle Dargan for his amazing work in leading this workshop, Carolyn Forche for leading workshops and her guidance in the planning process, the Lannan Center of Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University for supporting the publication of the student anthology, and all the educators who worked with us to provide this workshop to these students, Ms. Jackson at Ballou Senior High School, Ms. Ball at Woodrow Wilson High School, Mr. Ratnor and Ms. Elwell at Bell Multicultural High School, and Ms. Foster at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. We would also like to thank Kenny Carroll, Sally Keith, Adam Pelligrini, Mike Scalise, William Bert, Naomi Hackenberg, and Allyson Rudolph.