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 5 through 9 on the SFA campus.

This is the third year SFA is offering the program, which is tailored for students ages 13 through 21 with an interest in reading and writing. This year's program is the largest with 40 participants from Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Central and Central Heights.

Dr. Heather Olson Beal, SFA associate professor of secondary education, is coordinating the program.

"The program is exciting because it allows participants to write freely and without censure. The only goal is for students to express themselves creatively and to make their voices heard," Olson Beal said.

The program offers free afternoon workshops in the McKibben Education Building on the SFA campus. SFA faculty and staff members serve as writing advisors who lead the workshops. SFA students 21 or younger also are encouraged to participate in the event, especially education majors, as Olson Beal said the event offers great experience and adds to one's résumé.

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.

This year, participants also will undergo a virtual reality experience in SFA's new Emerging Technologies Lab in the Steen Library on campus, which will extend their experiences beyond the local community.

After the summer program, Barrio Writers founder Sarah Rafael García collects the written work and compiles the pieces into a book to demonstrate the participant's diverse backgrounds. 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 will be hosted at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Nacogdoches Public Library. 

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