In reaching the one-year milestone, Mighty Writers Germantown staff, students, and parents reflect on their impact on enriching youth education and their hopes for the future.

Mighty Writers Germantown sign. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

Once upon a time, the grounds of Germantown were reimagined to include a study for its young princes and princesses—just an ordinary study, full of books and desks and writing utensils. However, something extraordinary happened to them upon entering. They came back with stories and sketches depicting dragons and knights. They recited poetry, not from a dusty, disheveled novel but from their own pens. The townspeople wanted answers to understanding their newfound confidence and knowledge, to which the princes and princesses unveiled the secrets of the Mighty Writers.

Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia initiative that teaches adolescents to “think clearly and write with clarity,” opened a new chapter in Germantown in January 2023. Since then, they have earned a gold star for creating a safe space that fosters ambition, education, and inclusion over a year.

“We don’t want you to write the way you talk; we want you to talk the way you want to be heard,” explains Asha Boakye-Yiadom, Literacy Director at Mighty Writers (MW) Germantown.

Akofa Deh, a 14-year-old high school freshman, describes the powers of finding your communicative voice. Her experience with different MW Germantown workshops is a testament to the program’s well-crafted expansion on not just a child’s art and writing skills but also their social skills. 

“It creates a way for them to express themselves and put their thoughts and their dreams into words or pictures,” Deh says. “And I think that to convey opinions and truths and experiences is something that we really need to work on in the world because without being able to convey or express our experiences to other people, they may not be understood and properly represented in the media. Everything from that to this, from feelings to facts… Those fundamentals are what really creates you as a successful person in society.” 

After browsing the library of workshops, children are taught to communicate successfully across many literary forms. Most instructors who have completed their six-week course are educators. However, MW Germantown has hosted individuals who teach their classes through a more specialized lens. A year-long list of credits features workshops with film, time capsule preservation, and old-fashioned typewriting. 

A Book Wall at MW Germantown featuring a customized MW superhero themed book. (GIH | Jordan Manson)

With these in-depth workshops, a world of wonder and imagination is revealed. The program encourages students to lean into their artistry and creativity, an aspect of individuality that is oftentimes overlooked. 

Helen Ford, a mother of two (a kindergartener and a fifth grader), who are both enrolled in MW Germantown, passed down her love of storytelling. Ford’s son had tried various sports and activities before, but “he didn’t seem comfortable,” according to Ford. She says she suggested he try storytelling, and he was willing to give it a shot. And to her surprise, he enjoyed it.

“Usually, just because I asked him to do it, he’ll say, ‘Oh, it was terrible,’” says the mom of two. “But he was like, ‘No, I really liked it, and I want to come back.’” 

Ford shares her admiration for the community MW Germantown has given her children, saying, “Both of them have always been kind of excited by books and writing and stories, which, you know, something that was important to me growing up. I see their engagement and that they seem to want to be here. They enjoy it. They have their own little community here.”

Mimi Russel, an autistic support teacher for Hill Freedman World Academy, saw the program’s benefits and chose to enroll her son. Before coming to MW Germantown, she says, “He had issues with communication, and he didn’t like to read that much.” But after joining the group, she says he’s “more imaginative and made more friends.”

MW Germantown is a foundation of educators who build on each other’s expertise and knowledge. Present-day instructors have drawn up workshops that benefit the needs of the Germantown community: Maurice Williams’ Mighty Brotherhood, a safe space for young men to not only express their thoughts and feelings but to find acceptance, connection, and solace in their experiences as BIPOC; Girls Power, a workshop led by Jamila Kirkland that encourages girls to feel excited and validated in the softness of girlhood; and Boakye Yiadom’s series International Mums Hub, a support group encompassing a range of diverse backgrounds with a shared desire to connect their child’s learning experience back to their personal ethnicity’s culture and roots. 

In a current Comic Book Writing workshop by Sean Tate, stick figures are transformed into realistic anime characters. “I think out of all the workshops that we have [now], the kids love this one the most because they get to see how going from nothing to something happens in the span of an hour and a half,” explains Boakye-Yiadom. 

A demonstration of the female body structure in Sean Tate’s Comic Book Workshop. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

While there is proof in consistent writing practice, the relationships these kids have built with their instructors, curating a dialogue where they feel free to express themselves, build on these communication foundations. 

This mutual sense of comfort and trust takes time. In the past year, the MW Germantown staff have become educators through teaching, mentors through guiding, and a “secret box” (as referred to by Boakye-Yiadom) through conversations where children can ramble on about anything from conflicts to crushes. 

“I just talk to them. Each one, I get to know their names. I ask them questions and find out what they like. I joke with them. I eat with them. You’d be surprised what eating does with a relationship with anybody,” Boakye-Yiadom explains. She playfully admits she doesn’t like the Blue Takis she shares with the young ones, though she loves the bonds it helps her create.

Boakye-Yiadom is selective when choosing mentors, preferring those with a natural ability to build relationships with children. She observes the volunteer’s interactions with the children and considers input from the children and the potential mentors.

“Being with children, I don’t call it a gift. I call it, ‘it’s what you’re called to do.” Boakye-Yiadom says. “So, if you’re doing what you’re called to do, then things like that come easy. It just, it just happens.”

Russel affirms Boakye-Yiadom’s sentiments, talking about her son’s relationship with one mentor. She says, “Mrs. BY is like his second mom, and I get a little jealous sometimes because Fridays is usually our days that we don’t come, but he comes if Mrs. BY is here. So, so he loves it.”

Talking to and building relationships with the princes and princesses is glaring as to just how royal they are. The skills that they strengthen in the MW Germantown study are applied to an assortment of opportunities.

Yania Strawberry, a first-year MW student, is just one display of excellence. Her love of learning about different cultures through history and poetry devices intensified her plot by securing a trip to Paris next year. In exchange for witnessing a romance novel in real time, Strawberry placed a bet with her father that she would ace 50 assignments, earning 100 percent on each. Her 50 assignment goal proved all too easy, as she excelled by instead earning 100 percent on over 75 assignments.

“Before Mighty Writers, even though it was for myself, I wasn’t writing it like it was for myself,” shares Strawberry, discussing how MW has influenced her poetry. “I was still holding back in it, and it feels like after Mighty Writers I definitely stopped just holding back. I wasn’t sugarcoating anything, so it definitely became a lot more powerful.”

In celebrating MW Germantown’s first anniversary, Boakye-Yidom also celebrates the addition of three new mentors, including two staff members and one non-staff member. In Mighty Writers’ future sequel, Boakye-Yiadom hopes there will be a significant focus on developing the mentorship program and a new location abroad. After celebrating a year of community education and engagement, her goals for MW Germantown seem to be written and bound. 

To contact Mighty Writers at their 12 E. Church Lane Germantown location, call (267) 239-0899. You may also email Asha Boakye-Yiadom at abyiadom@mightywriters.org or Bryanna Crump, the MW Germantown Program Manager, at brcump@mightywriters.org. For more information and registration, visit mightywriters.org

*Please note that programs and workshops offered may vary from listings on the website, as MW Germantown consistently remodels its curriculum.