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Our Mighty Story

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“… your program’s selection as one of the 50 finalists distinguishes [Mighty Writers] as one of the top arts-and-humanities-based programs in the country.”—President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities

Mighty Volunteers

Shanise Redmon 2016

Shanise Redmon

Hometown: Philadelphia

Profession: Graduate Student

Been a volunteer at MW since: 2013

What I do at MW: Workshop Instructor

Favorite authors: Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka

Last book I read: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Book I liked as a kid: As a little kid, anything by Shel Silverstein. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. As a teen, Native Son by Richard Wright, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey.

Quote I like: “Writing for me is control. Nobody tells me what to do. It’s mine. It’s free. It’s a way of thinking. It’s pure knowledge.” – Toni Morrison

Gosh, speaking of volunteering, check this.

Three Mighty Volunteers

Kintan and Kim with border

Kimberly Friel

Hometown: Horsham

Profession: AmeriCorps Alumni, current barista at LaVa Cafe

Volunteer at MW since: March 2014

What I do at MW: I’m a mentor and have been meeting with Kintan, my mentee, once a week for over two years. We work on homework, writing assignments, projects, and we just talk about life. We try to have as many fun outings as possible and I’ve been to all her recitals and performances. Her family is family to me; she is an important person in my life.

Last book I read: The Afterlife and Other Stories by John Updike

Book I liked as a kid: All the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Quote I like: “I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience through adventure, through passion. Still all of it means something to me, same as most anyone with dreams.” — Mickey Smith

Ben and Juan standing with border

Ben Block

Hometown: Baltimore, Md

Profession: Marketing Manager

Been a volunteer at MW since: February 2016

What I do at MW: I have the good fortune to spend time with 5th grader and chess-kung fu champion Juan Sanchez.

Favorite author: Kurt Vonnegut

Last book I read: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book I liked as a kid: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Quote I like: “To infinity and beyond.”

MW North Marlie workshop with border

Name: Marlie Derstine

Hometown: Perkasie, PA (Bucks County)

Profession: Full-time student at Temple University

Been a volunteer at MW since: September 2015

What I do at MW: I lead the “Rhyme Tyme with Dr. Seuss” Workshop at Mighty Writers North, 1801 Diamond St., on Tuesday nights, 6:30-7:30pm.

Favorite authors: Patricia McCormick and Khaled Hosseini

Last book I read: Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Book I liked as a kid: The Magic Treehouse series

Quote I like: “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough.” —Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (President of Liberia)

Mighty Volunteer

MW John Durkee

John Durkee

Hometown: West Chester, PA

Profession: Writer and student

Been a volunteer at MW since: March 2015

What I do at MW: I am an intern with a variety of Mighty duties. I come to Mighty Writers as a teaching assistant, workshop leader, Academy volunteer and mentor.

Favorite author: Jon Krakauer, David Duchovny

Last book I read: “Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale” by David Duchovny

Book I liked as a kid: “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

Quote I like: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

Mighty Volunteer

Quaizee & Calvin

Quaizee T. Isham

School: JEVS E3 Power Center

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Here’s what Quaizee has to say about his experience at MW South: 

Since starting at Mighty Writers in February, I’ve come to love this program and its atmosphere. My role here is to tutor the children, creating healthy and everlasting bonds. I’m also eager to help with pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

The skills that make a strong Mighty volunteer are patience and joyfulness. Mighty Writers South (located at 1501 Christian St.) is unique because it’s welcoming, loving and full of life.

Two things that make a Mighty Writer are creativity and a willingness to learn new things. If I could place a Mighty Writers program anywhere, I would put one in Africa. A program like this in Africa would help a lot of children build key skills for the future and give them a place to feel at home.

Mighty in 2015!


“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”

– Graham Greene

You’re always there for us. Have been from the beginning.

In 2014 you outdid yourselves.

We’re starting to run out of nice things to say about you.

You were there as volunteers, as donors, as advocates of good writing and storytelling.

You were there because you know what writing can do.

And you were there because you know something else.

Philly kids are the best. Smart and funny. Kind and generous. Simply the coolest. Deserving of our collective Herculean effort.

We reach some 2,000 Philly kids with the power of writing every year. Thanks to you, we’re going to reach a lot more Philly kids in 2015.

We’ll be telling you how real soon. We can barely contain ourselves.

Meantime, thank you. Again. Our Mighty best for a glorious 2015.

As they say on The Wire, be easy.

Tim Whitaker

Executive Director, Mighty Writers 716-0830

Our Mighty Video

Teaching kids to think clearly and
write with clarity since 2009.

Where Writing Is Mighty

Christian copy
Christian Precise (photo above) is a junior at Masterman High School in Philadelphia and a longtime student at Mighty Writers. The following story recently appeared in her school newspaper.

Walls adorned with blown-up images of comic book superheroes, shelves stuffed with novels from writers of all walks of life and rooms bursting at the seams with the energy of children eager to learn how to write: this is Mighty Writers– a free Philadelphia writing program that teaches kids to think clearly and write with clarity.

Executive Director Tim Whitaker had big plans to tackle the illiteracy issue in Philadelphia when he opened a first location in 2009. Mighty Writers has grown rapidly from its roots six years ago and continues to expand. Today the program boasts 2500 students and over 300 volunteers.

The story continues >>>