State of Grace

Grace Morrison-Wesley is a seventh-grader and a regular at our Mighty Writers center in West Philadelphia. 

Grace is loves writing as much or more than any of our Mighty kids. We see a future filled with Grace Morrison-Wesley stories.

Don’t bet on her ever writing a memoir though. 

“I absolutely hate writing about myself,” Grace wrote in a recent essay published in the West Philly Promise Zone newsletter. “It limits my imagination.” 

What Grace finds difficult with nonfiction in general is “staying in this reality instead of going into my own world, a place with endless possibilities—– no limitations and no instructions. The only limit is my imagination and what it can dream up.”

There’s more:

“Writing is an art, a beautiful mess. It’s a process of trying and trying again until you have something you love, something original, something that has space for others to create something with it as well.”

Seventh grade, this Mighty kid.

We’ll keep you posted on her literary future.

A Mighty Day

An MLK Day to remember.

In partnership with the hair salon LaPearl, Mighty Writers West hosted a moms and families-in-transition program for MLK Day. Families received gratis hair styles and cuts (and some much needed pampering), then came to MW West to hear stories from a friend and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Deacon William Toles (pictured here with MW West’s Christin Rosario).

Mighty thanks to our volunteer stylists, and volunteer childcare providers. 

Know Your MW Staffers

“Never give up on anyone.”

Nelia Diaz De Fiore

Program Director, El Futuro

Where I Grew Up: Trujillo Coast, Bay Island Department, Honduras.

Education: UNAH Honduras (Pedagogia y Ciencias de la Educacion).  International Christian Institute Houston, TX (English as a Second Language) Kaplan University Houston, TX (International Studies).      

One of my biggest heroes: Jesús. He said kingdom of heaven belongs to children.

Favorite authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Paulo Coelho, Pablo Neruda,

Currently reading: “The Leading Brain” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Most important thing to remember when teaching kids: Teach the way you would want your own kids to be taught. Never give up on anyone.

Know Your MW Staffers

“Compassion is key.”

Amy Banegas

Program Director, Mighty Writers North

Where I grew up: Philadelphia

College: Temple University 

One of my biggest heroes is: Frida Khalo. For her strength, resistance and passion. Her story has been an inspiration to me since I was in middle school. 

Favorite author: Brene Brown

Last book I read: “A Return to Love,” by Marianne Williamson

Person who inspired me to appreciate writing; My 3rd grade teacher, Ms Hawkins, because she invested her time to read my quirky stories and poems. She gifted me books by Shel Silverstein, Judy Bloom and Beverly Cleary to help enhance my imagination and love of writing.

Most important thing to always remember when teaching kids: Compassion is key. It creates space for emotional, mental, and social growth for our youth. If we all practice and teach compassion and care, imagine the possibilities.

Know Your MW Staffers

“Writing is an outlet for expression.”

Tierra Shardae’ Jones

Program Director, Mighty Penrose Rec Center, 11th & Susquehanna

Where I grew up: North Philadelphia

College: Undergraduate, Pennsylvania State University. Graduate Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University

One of my biggest heroes is: My foster dad. He’s shown me unconditional love and an unmatched level of support. He’s my GO TO for everything in LIFE! 

Favorite author: Toni Morrison

Last book I read: “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama

Person who inspired me to appreciate writing: Nikki Giovanni. The boldness of her words and unapologetic tone spoke to me! It was then I realized that writing is not just pen to paper, but an outlet of expression and freedom.

Most important thing to always remember when teaching kids: They ARE kids and it’s up to us to use our platform to encourage and support them. 

Dr. King On Education

“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.

But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.

The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–-that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!

Morehouse College 1948

Why Mighty Writers

Know Your MW Staffers

“Kids think far deeper than you know.”

Evangeline Blair Smith

Program Director, Mighty Rivera Rec Center, 5th & Allegheny

Where I grew up: Germantown

College: Temple University

One of my biggest heroes is: My parents because I continue to learn how to help make the world better by watching them.

Favorite author: Lynn Reid Banks

Last book I read: “Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s  Most Unloved Plants,” by Richard Mabey.

Person who inspired me to appreciate writing; My grandmother, Mary Rose, who read to me until I could write. She created the changes she wanted to see in the world by writing letters her whole life and fearlessly tried her hand at new kinds of writing into her old age.

Most important thing to always remember when teaching kids: They have lots more to say than people think and they’re thinking far deeper than you know.

Know Your MW Staffers

“The ticket to success is staying focused.”


Program Director, Camden, NJ

Where I grew up: Camden, NJ

College: Rutgers University

One of my biggest heroes is: My grandmother, Rosalina Mercado. Growing up, she was the kind of woman I’d hope to become. My grandmother has many skills and talents, but her most admirable qualities are her genuine humility, generosity and kindness. 

Favorite author: My favorite author is Jean Ferris. It was a book she’d written almost 20 years ago that made me fall in love with reading. 

Last book I read: “Corazon,” by Yesica Salgado.

Person who inspired me to appreciate writing: I attribute my love for writing to my high school teacher, Mrs. Marilyn Larke. Utilizing her platform as a teacher, she exposed me to different types of writing such as poetry and play writing. She shared with me her passion for the arts; that in itself inspired me to dream bigger than I ever imagined possible. 

Most important thing to always remember when teaching kids: At times, things will be challenging, for nothing worth having comes easy. The ticket to succeeding is staying focused and never giving up. 

Know Your MW Staffers

“It is our responsibility to honor children.”


Program Director, MW West (39th & Lancaster)

Where I grew up:  West Philadelphia

College:  Temple University / Saint Joseph’s University

One of my biggest heroes is: Assata Shakur. The idea of giving birth while cuffed to a bed and being imprisoned in a men’s facility, yet still surviving to write her story, exemplifies Girl Power!

Favorite author: Anthony Bourdain.

Last book I read: Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salmon Rushdie.

Person who inspired me to appreciate writing: My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. O.  She taught me to read when I was three-years-old and I have loved words ever since. She never let me use euphemisms. She encouraged me to use the proper word for everything and to never be shy about what that might mean.

Most important thing to always remember when teaching kids: That they are just small people and our responsibility is to honor who they are.