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La Salle University Students Inspire Young Writers

A growing program at La Salle University in Philadelphia touches the lives of inner-city students through writing.

Education Professor Bob Vogel developed the Urban Writers Program: Writers Matter after meeting Erin Gruwell, a teacher who started a writing program for high school students that was made into a movie called Freedom Writers.


Vogel adapted Gruwell’s method for teaching at-risk students and brought it to a Philadelphia middle school in 2005. His pilot program encouraged students to write creatively about their lives and develop a digital story using personal photos. It now includes more than 900 Philadelphia students and 31 La Salle students who mentor their progress.

Vogel said students are often hesitant to write because their assignments don’t relate to their experiences. Through Urban Writers, teachers encourage students to write about their own lives and communities. “The kids want and need to be listened to,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, and through personal writing they demonstrate this untapped potential.”

urban writers

The program fits with the University’s strategic plan by creating a greater sense of community, Vogel said. The attention and personalization help students to improve their writing skills and become more involved in their education.

The program was so successful that Vogel co-wrote the textbook Voices of Teens: Writers Matter, which has been implemented in 12 schools. Vogel also developed a newsletter and website. He hopes to create a writing center at the University to provide resources and workshops for students in the program.

–La Salle University Arts and Sciences Explorer, 2010 Edition