By Judy Wakefield
It's a summer writing program for kids and teachers - people you might expect to want their summers off. Yet administrators say they've only seen the kind of excitement they find there at basketball games.
It's the successful Andover Bread Loaf program founded by Andover resident Lou Bernieri, English teacher at Phillips Academy. The program turns 25 this summer.
Three workshops for 165 kids and 25 teachers from cities across the country are happening this summer at the Andover private school. Some 150 additional youth interested in the program had to be turned away due to space constraints.
"We're in a different place now but kids still want to find their voices and write," Bernieri said when asked about Andover Bread Loaf's success. "We're at the community forefront for education."
Writing, art and technology are at the core of Andover Bread Loaf, he said.
Just like previous summers, this summer's workshops have kids writing poems and essays on their lives and struggles. Teachers, meanwhile, take note of topics that keep kids interested.
"We've found that self-expression and social justice issues matter most, so we work with youth workers on this," Bernieri said. "We've found that communities want to be involved." Communities around the world, that is.
Bread Loaf's colorful annual report looks as much like a geography project as an English composition. Bread Loaf has worked in nine states, including South Dakota and California, and 21 cities in the U.S. It has worked in nine other countries, including Haiti, India and Africa.
Lawrence was the springboard for the program back in 1987, when kids from that city enrolled in the first Andover Bread Loaf summer workshops along with some teachers. Now, in addition to teachers and students, Bread Loaf reaches youth workers, community groups and cultural institutions. Bernieri said citywide writing conferences, slam poetry programs and open mic nights are examples of how Bread Loaf reaches out and grabs new groups of writers these days.
"The same writing and teaching methods that inspire Latino kids in Lawrence are used around the world."
The goal is to have an educational approach that keeps kids interested for life. For the past 25 years, Andover Bread Loaf has been successfully doing that for kids in grades 1 to 12 around the world. Bernieri has no plans to stop.