Echo Glen Children’s Center students vie for grant

December 11, 2012

By Sebastian Moraga

A correctional center might seem like a strange place to feel unleashed.

But that occurs at Echo Glen Children’s Center, a Snoqualmie-based correctional facility and school run by the Issaquah School District.

A program there called Writers Unleashed allows its students to write essays and share with residents and school staff members their dreams and regrets.

The program started in January. Although students can write about whatever they want, the writeups are most often deeply personal.

“The students seem to focus on past misdeeds for the core of their written responses,” Echo Glen teacher Ken Sylvester wrote in an email. “Most seem to focus on analyzing their past and what steps are to be taken next.”

For the program itself, the next step is a $50,000 grant application to Clorox.

The money, according to a district press release, would help expand the program via:

  • The purchase of laptops to include more students.
  • A secure website to allow students to keep writing once released from Echo Glen.
  • A scholarship for former students.
  • Getting the essays published.

People can vote once every 24 hours for Echo Glen to win the grant, between now and Dec. 19. They may text “2390pbf” to the number 95248 or they may vote online at https:/, according to the release. On the homepage, enter “Echo Glen” in the search box.

Win or lose, Sylvester said the program’s worth measures up in other ways.

“We have had students write back to us after they leave — are released — and express the value of the program while they were here,” he wrote, “and that it has inspired them to keep writing on their own.”

At first, the students in the program balk at sharing their thoughts. As they get more comfortable with the group, they open up.

“They start to see a common thread between themselves and even the teachers and volunteers who run the program,” Sylvester wrote. “By sharing their individual experiences, they are able to open up a very personal side of themselves that we don’t normally see or hear in class.”

Students must have a passion for writing, a clean behavior record, a good academic record within Echo Glen and the recommendation of a staff member to enter Writers Unleashed.

Each session lasts one semester. More than 70 students at Echo Glen applied for the current session, which began in September. For security reasons, each session accommodates up to 12 students, Sylvester wrote.

The writings are honest, brave and compassionate, he wrote. Besides improving the students’ writing, the program has helped in other, more therapeutic ways.

“They all seem to have a strong desire to communicate to others,” Sylvester wrote. “Especially siblings and family members, that whatever they did was wrong and not to do as they did.”

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