When Cynthia Larsen stopped teaching English full-time in 1995 to pursue a Master’s in Creative Writing, she watched in dismay as the federal “No Child Left Behind Act” was passed by Congress a few years later. It tied teachers’ hands, she thought, forcing them to teach to the test and squeezing creativity out of the classroom.
So Larsen decided to do something about it. She volunteered at her children’s schools in Cleveland Heights, teaching and helping students with creative writing projects. Then she met Amy Rosenbluth, a fellow teacher who was running youth poetry slams at a neighboring school. Soon Lake Erie Ink was born.
Now the nonprofit organization, which offers creative writing classes, camps and workshops for school-age youth, has made the jump to leasing space at the former Coventry School and plans to offer additional classes beginning in September.
“My kids went to this school, so it’s great to be back in the building, and for it to be put to good use,” says Larsen. “Originally, we were looking for a storefront, but the district offered us a deal too good to pass up. Plus, this place is a kid magnet.”
The former Coventry School is located at the corner of Coventry and Euclid Heights, adjacent to a playground, the Peace Park and the Coventry Library.
Since launching Lake Erie Ink in 2010, its founders have learned that there is significant demand in the community for their services. In fact, the group had waiting lists for all three of its summer camps this year. “When the students started coming to us, we realized we were really onto something,” says Larsen.
This summer, Lake Erie Ink held a play-writing camp (the kids produced 22 separate plays), a comic book camp, and a “people and places” camp where students interviewed local businesses and wrote down their stories.
“The need here is so apparent,” says Larsen, who got part of her inspiration for Lake Erie Ink from the 826 Valencia literary centers launched by writer Dave Eggers. “We provide a welcome relief for the parents, teachers and kids.”
Fresh Water Cleveland, 9/1/11