NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Members of the Nacogdoches/Stephen F. Austin State University Barrio Writers program will launch their online journal with a live reading at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 23, on their Facebook page.

“We are so excited to share the work of these young local writers with the community,” said Dr. Heather Olson Beal, professor of secondary education in SFA’s James I. Perkins College of Education. “This reading is a culmination of a year’s worth of writing for those participating.”

As a chapter of the national Barrio Writers organization, the Nacogdoches/SFA program is designed for students ranging in age from 13 through 21. The free program has hosted 30 East Texas students for a week every summer since 2015 to help build their skills in reading, grammar, creative writing, critical thinking and freedom of expression through cultural arts.

Five writing advisors lead the students through the summer workshop, organize the live readings and help publish the journal: Olson Beal; Dr. Lauren Burrow, associate professor of secondary education; Dr. Chrissy Cross, associate professor of secondary education; Dr. Amber Wagnon, assistant professor of secondary education; and Alicia De la Rosa-Millard, a graduate student from Nacogdoches who will earn her Master of Arts in professional counseling with a clinical rehabilitation counseling concentration this May.

“We continue to be amazed by the work our local youth produce during the weeklong workshop,” Burrow said. “We hold these workshops because we believe in our local youth and want to support them as they develop their voices and grow into adulthood.”

The Nacogdoches/SFA chapter began building its online journal in 2019 as a way to publish an annual collection of members’ newly written works, which demonstrate the diverse backgrounds of the students.

“In addition to live readings and print-only publications, this online journal offers students a way to reach a wider audience,” Cross said.

The inaugural issue of the journal includes a dozen works from 2018 on topics such as America’s melting pot, stress and anxiety. Each work includes questions for further discussion inside and outside the classroom.

“We hope readers will enjoy these writers’ wise, impassioned and beautiful words in this first issue,” Wagnon said. “We’re aiming to publish the 2019 pieces in late fall or January 2021.”

Print versions of the young writers’ works can be purchased from The Bosslight in downtown Nacogdoches or online at or Amazon.  

This summer’s Barrio Writers workshop will look a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Olson Beal said.

“We are planning on hosting a virtual Barrio Writers workshop in June. We can’t skip it just because of the quarantine!”

Founded by author Sarah Rafael Garcia in 2009, Barrio Writers is designed to empower the teenage community while establishing a self-sufficient educational program that represents community pride, perseverance and endless possibilities for following generations. Students are participating in chapters in Santa Ana, California, and Austin, Pflugerville, San Marcos and Corpus Christi, Texas, in addition to the Nacogdoches/SFA program.

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