WEST ORANGE, NJ - Write on Sports, the West Orange-based organization which teaches students to write about sports as a way to inspire them to write, celebrated the program’s past, present and future at its Anniversary Gala held last week in Newark.
Three former Write On Sports students spoke at the event and represented each of these phases. Joyce Arowosaye, and Kristie Keleshian, both graduates of West Orange High School, and Olu Ologundudu of Newark all in Write on Sports camps as middle-schoolers. Last summer, they returned as interns. Now, all three are college students, and two are studying journalism. Each represents the goal of Write on Sports, founded in 2006 by former Associated Press writer and editor Byron Yake: to teach middle-school students to write, as well as build self-confidence and communication skills, through a subject and activities that are fun and engaging. To date, more than 600 middle-school students have participated in Write on Sports summer camps and after-school programs.
The gala honored four Sports and Literacy Champions: former Giants offensive lineman Bill Ard, ESPN journalist Chris Broussard, The Rivendell Foundation’s Kenneth J. Goldman and long-time AAU basketball coach Sandy Pyonin. During the program, the three spotlighted Write on Sports alums shared their personal success stories, with one common thread: The program changed their lives. Arowosaye wasn’t interested in sports or writing before she attended Write on Sports in the summer of 2007 -- she admitted she thought the Super Bowl was “a really big bowl you ate out of” -- but the camp gave her the sports bug and, more importantly, helped her get over the anxiety she used to feel staring at a blank page. She is now studying broadcast journalism at Essex County College. Keleshian shared a similar story: She was once too nervous to make a presentation in front of her class, but found a new self-confidence after attending three Write on Sports camps. She is now studying television and digital media at Montclair State University. Ologundudu, who grew up in Newark, first attended Write on Sports at the recommendation of his seventh-grade English teacher, who told the self-described class clown, “Some skills, like writing, will always be with you. His first article for Write on Sports was about the Celtics’ “Big Three” -- and Ologundudu wrote six drafts, something he had never done before. “I learned the importance of focus, and to be proud of your own work,” said Ologundudu, now a sophomore at St. John’s University.
Six more recent Write on Sports participants also attended the dinner as both guests and reporters, assigned to write spot stories on the event that will be posted next week on www.writeonsports.org.
In 2013, Write on Sports served students in four school districts in New Jersey -- West Orange, Hawthorne, Clifton and Newark -- and for the first time, expanded outside the state, to Goshen College in Indiana. A camp in Providence, R.I., is also in the works for next summer. Write on Sports continues to grow, and so does the network of students it has inspired.
Peter King, award-winning Sports Illustrated NFL writer and the editor-in-chief of The MMQB website, summed up the program’s purpose as the master of ceremonies for the gala: “Once you have learned to write a sentence about a good sports event, you can write a sentence about anything."