NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University's James I. Perkins College of Education will host Barrio Writers, a free weeklong summer writing program, June 13-18 on the SFA campus.

This is the second year SFA is offering the program, which is tailored for students ages 13-21 with an interest in reading and writing.

Barrio Writers comprises chapters in cities across the state, including Austin and Houston. Dr. Heather Olson Beal, SFA associate professor of secondary education, is coordinating the program for SFA and the Nacogdoches Independent School District.

The program offers free afternoon workshops in the McKibben Education Building on the SFA campus. SFA faculty and staff members serve as writing advisers who lead the workshops.

During each session, students read books, poems and song lyrics before discussing them as a group and then free write for 30 minutes. Through discussion, students relate the reading to their personal experiences by answering various questions. Students also can share their writing and receive critiques and constructive feedback.

"In this program, we don't focus on grammar or writing style. Instead, we focus on using one's voice for empowerment and identity," Olson Beal said. "The program's purpose is to have students work on content and expressing themselves. We want them to think about big issues in their communities and use writing as a tool to change the world around them."

After each program is complete, Barrio Writers founder Sarah Rafael García collects the written work and compiles the pieces into a book to demonstrate the participant's diverse backgrounds. Olson Beal said the opportunity for students to have their work published is one of the program's main benefits. SFA Press began publishing the yearly Barrio Writers anthologies in 2015.

Along with the workshops, students participate in multicultural field trips during the week. Also, a public reading of the students' work is hosted the Saturday following the program. This year's public reading will be June 18.

In addition to Nacogdoches ISD students in grades 6-12, SFA students 21 or younger also are encouraged to participate in the event, especially education majors as Olson Beal said the event is great for experience and one's résumé.

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