Holy Cross Alumna Empowers Young Women Through Poetry in the Mississippi Delta

Born out of her Teach for America experience, Madison Walsh '12 co-founded Girls Write the World, a girls-only literacy and youth development nonprofit
January 7th, 2019 by 

Girls Write the World co-founders and counselors, including alumna Madison Walsh '12, stand together
(from left) Girls Write the World co-founders and counselors Kenrica Sands, Madison Walsh '12, Jackie Driver (junior counselor), Sarah Hutchinson and Sloane Winters.

If you’ve ever been to Mississippi in the summer, you know it is no place for the faint of heart, and you might wonder what brings me back year after year. It’s exactly that — heart — in the form of bright, fierce young women and the community we’ve built together through Girls Write the World, a girls-only literacy and youth development nonprofit.

The program was born out of my Teach for America experience. When I left Holy Cross and arrived at Delta State University following my graduation in summer 2012, I was eagerly joining hundreds of other soon-to-be teachers at Teach for America’s summer training institute in Cleveland, Mississippi. I had no idea that even the rigor of Holy Cross would not have prepared me for the challenges I faced as a first-year teacher in a community completely unfamiliar to me.

As I struggled through my first two years of teaching seventh grade English in Greenville, Mississippi, my emotions ran the gamut from despair to elation, from hopeless to optimistic. I lost and regained faith in my teaching abilities and fell in love with the community and my students. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice my students’ lack of resources — not just books and school supplies — but spaces to grapple with sexism, racism and the challenges of girlhood; creative outlets; inspirational and informative literature; leadership opportunities; sex and health education; and college preparatory information.

At the end of my Teach for America commitment, I knew there was more work to do in Greenville. Girls Write the World was a way to address many of the concerns I was unable to tackle as a teacher and create a new, alternative space for my female students. In summer 2015, full of renewed energy, my three co-founders and I (all former English teachers) launched our inaugural summer program.

My memories from that first summer come in bursts. Sleeping in a house with no air conditioning because a gracious friend offered it for free. Hand-painting invitations to our first poetry showcase because we didn’t have access to a color printer. Driving all around town each morning and afternoon to pick up and drop off campers because we were afraid if we didn’t, they might not come.

All of those memories don’t begin to capture the overwhelming feelings of awe and gratitude when I look back at that first bumpy summer. Gratitude for the parents who trusted us, the campers who jumped in with both feet and community members who provided a free space for our campers to gather. Awe that our three essential rules — be kind, supportive and brave — and a lot of love created an incredible community that is continuing to grow.

We’ve come a long way in terms of organization and capital since that first summer, but our goals have not changed. First and foremost, we aim to create a safe space for our eighth-through 12th-grade female campers to create, explore and grow, a place where they are supported and celebrated. We do this through morning poetry workshops, where we read, discuss and analyze poetry written by women of color and write and share our own poetry. Second, we aim to provide specific, tangible resources to help our campers navigate their high school years. We do this through a variety of afternoon workshops. In the past, we’ve covered topics such as healthy relationships, mental health, sex ed, college 101, financial literacy and self-defense. We end the week with a college field trip and poetry showcase, in which campers perform their original work for family, friends and community members.

As the program continues to grow, we have turned our sights on more leadership and ownership opportunities for our campers. This past summer, we introduced two new elements: a G-Lead role, which creates a pathway for students to develop from camper to counselor, and a community day, which provides an opportunity for campers to act as counselors for a day and guide their family, friends and community members through a part of Girls Write the World’s curriculum.

At the end of each summer, I am again overwhelmed by those same feelings of gratitude and awe. One hundred percent of our campers reported that they would recommend camp to a friend, that it helped them open up and express themselves in new ways and improved their self-esteem. In a world in which women, particularly women of color, are consistently receiving the message that their lives and stories have less worth than others, I am proud to be part of an organization that works to celebrate, affirm and project young female voices.

At Girls Write the World’s summer program, young women of color in grades eight through 12 discover how to express their experience through their own original works, such as the piece below.

BEING ME…
IS UNIQUE
By Derricka

Being me is unique
Not letting the
society define me
Not transforming
myself to that
So called perfect
woman
Being me is unique
Being that
headstrong and
determined
woman
Being confident
and outspoken
Embracing my size
even though
I’m not that coke
bottle ideal shape
Being me is unique
Being a little cocky
And being the top
of my class
As society hates
me being
Smarter than the
men in my class
Being brave and
showing that
I can step outside
my box
Showing that I’m
independent
Being me is unique

 

Written by Madison Walsh ’12 for the Winter 2019 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine
Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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Open to the Public
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/12/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Medieval and Renaissance Studies lecture
3/13/2019
Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/13/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Faculty Conversation Series-175th Anniversary
3/14/2019
175th Anniversary
Dinand Library Faculty Room
Subject: EloquenceFaculty Conversation Series on Ignatian Pedagogy. The...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/14/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
3/15/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross Choirs are back from their tour down the East...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/15/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/16/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Organ concert - Benjamin Alard
3/17/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Benjamin Alard, OrganistChurch: Saint-Louis-en-Île,...
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Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/17/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/18/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


EY On-Campus Interviews
3/18/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Description:Visit Crusader Connections to view summer opportunities...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
3/18/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Description:Visit Crusader Connections to view summer opportunities...
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Reading by Emilie Pine
3/19/2019
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Lecture: Rev. Orobator, S.J., on Religion and Faith in Africa
3/19/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Drawing on his most recent book, “Religion and Faith...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/19/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Lecture: Irish Advocate for Sexual Abuse Victims Talks Therapy, Treatment and Prevention
3/20/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/20/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/21/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/22/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/23/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/24/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
3/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


MPE Meeting (Event canceled)
3/25/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/25/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/26/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/27/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Lecture: Peter Phan on Theology of the Church in the Age of Migration
3/28/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Peter Phan is the inaugural holder of the Ignacio Ellacuria Chair...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/28/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


175th Jesuits and Music Concert
3/29/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Many Holy Cross musical ensembles and performers will join...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
3/29/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/30/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/31/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Lecture: Cornell Historian Derek Chang on Asians in the Jim Crow South
4/1/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Conference on Liberal Arts Education
4/1/2019
Political Science
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
What is the role of Great Books in a liberal arts education? Are...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/1/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
4/1/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


53rd Annual Hanify-Howland Lecture
4/2/2019
Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture
Holy Cross Campus
The 53rd annual Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture will be held April 2, 2019 in the...
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Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/2/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This two-day conference highlights a new, historically-sensitive...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/2/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
4/2/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/3/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
4/3/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/3/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Readings from the Roots is a new, historically-sensitive translation...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Ira Sukrungruang
4/4/2019
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
4/4/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Collections
4/5/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/6/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/6/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/7/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/8/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting (Event canceled)
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Hester/Craig Debate
4/9/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
Is theistic belief rational in a scientific age? Listen in on a conversation...
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COPE Well Week
4/9/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/9/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/10/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/10/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Lecture: Glenn Loury on the Ethics of Affirmative Action Policies in Higher Education
4/11/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences,...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/11/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/13/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble Spring Concert
4/16/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
An evening of Big Band Jazz music that plays from the Classic to the...
See More >>


Holy Cross Orchestra Concert
4/24/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross College Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s...
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Haberlin Hall 219
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
O'Neil Hall 112
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
See More >>


H-CLEF Concert
4/26/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
Join the Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble Federation for an evening of silent...
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
4/27/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Giacomo Carissimi was the first great composer of oratorios,...
See More >>


Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert - Pavel Kohout
4/28/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Pavel Kohout, OrganistInternational Concert Organist, Prague,...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Dance Concert
5/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Dance ConcertMay 1 at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PMFenwick Theatre – 2nd...
See More >>


Romantic Exile and Transnational Celebrity
5/2/2019
English
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Omar Miranda, assistant professor of English at the University of...
See More >>


175th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
5/17/2019
Featured Employee
Outdoor starting at Hogan
This Scavenger Hunt is being put on by the Mission and Identity Subcommittee...
See More >>

See All