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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.

Our Mighty Directors

program directors

Counter-clockwise from right hand corner: Khalia Robinson (West Philly), Madeline Karp (El Futuro), Tanesha Ford (South Philly) and Shamira O’Neal (North Philly). ‪#‎Mighty‬

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)

Can You Put That In Writing?


We’re often asked how we chart writing progress. How we know if kids are becoming better writers.

We have a few answers.

We collect report cards, so we see how each Mighty kid is doing in English and language arts.

We also have a computer program that analyzes writing progress. The kids type their stories into a template, press submit and the program evaluates their writing. It may be they need to be more descriptive. Or maybe there’s too much description.

The kids revise, and resubmit. We track their scores over time.

There’s another way we judge how kids are progressing with writing. It has nothing to do with report cards or computer programs. It’s purely observational. It’s called confidence.

Early into our launch of Mighty Writers, one of our little Mighty guys stopped me as I was coming through the front door. He had a question.

“How do you get the money to run Mighty Writers?”

“Any way I can,” I told him, adhering to my vow to always speak truth to Mighty power.

He thought about that for a moment. I could see the self-esteem he’d earned at Mighty Writers grow right in front of me.

“Know what I’m going to do, Mr. Tim? I’m going to open up a sneaker store and give the money to Mighty Writers. And then when I grow up, I’m going to be a lawyer and buy you a whole lot of Mighty Writer houses.”

I didn’t doubt him. I had only one request.

“Can you put that in writing?”

—Tim Whitaker