Summer Writing Academy for High School Students Held on Trinity College Campus

Trinity Professors, HMTCA Teachers Expose 9th Graders to a Variety of Writing Styles

​Hartford, Connecticut, July 13, 2017 – For 9th graders about to attend Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA), summer isn’t just all about beach days and fireworks. As a requirement for attending, HMTCA students participate in a summer writing academy held on the campus of Trinity College.

Each student must attend a session of half-day classes over the course of two weeks. In that time, students involved with the program learn about and experiment with numerous forms of writing, from poetry and advertising, to storytelling in video games. Each class is team-taught by a Trinity professor and a teacher from HMTCA.

Tennyson O’Donnell, director of Trinity’s Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric and an instructor for the HMTCA summer writing academy, said that the academy helps to reinforce the importance of writing to a liberal arts education. “We want to impress upon students not only that writing is an important skill, but to become better readers, thinkers, and speakers through writing,” O’Donnell said of the academy.

​Tennyson O’Donnell, director of Trinity’s Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric, and Katie Kiniry, a 10th grade English teacher at HMTCA, teach a class together during HMTCA's summer writing academy on the Trinity College campus.
Photo by Andrew J. Concatelli.
For rising 9th grader Sara Crowell, the summer writing program has a different feel compared to her English class during the school year. “The teachers really make it fun for us. Since we’re here for such a long time, they make it interesting so we really get involved,” she said. Crowell said that students in the HMTCA program are encouraged to analyze writing and to look for its deeper purpose.

Katie Kiniry, a 10th grade English teacher at HMTCA and an instructor for the summer course, said that the program used to have students work on only one written piece throughout the program. Now, students are encouraged to explore many different writing styles through shorter assignments.

However, the program teaches more than writing. Kiniry said that the program is a way to help HMTCA students mature, as the atmosphere of Trinity helps them learn and focus in a new way. “They get to understand the expectations of a college professor, as opposed to their high school teachers. I think that having both the Trinity professor and HMTCA teacher, who they have not had yet, makes them want to make a good impression,” she said.

Crowell added that she and her classmates are able to take their writing more seriously thanks to being in a college environment. “It’s been nice around Trinity because we’ve experienced more about the college life and what you really do there. I can really see what the teachers in 8th grade were actually talking about when they were saying ‘You’re going to work more,’” she said.

Crowell and her classmate Suhaily Tirado both said that among the writing styles they have learned about in class, poetry is their favorite. Tirado said that one day, the class went outside to do a poetry assignment, and since then, she thinks of herself as a “poetry freak.”

“The people here who help us, they encourage us to do more than what we normally do, to push us to our limits,” Tirado said.

O’Donnell said that although two weeks is usually not long enough to see dramatic improvement of their students’ writing skills, what he hopes for is to change a pupil’s thinking. “The two weeks here, and coming to campus to be taught by a Trinity College professor, can open the door to students becoming self-motivated learners,” he said.

If there is one thing that Kiniry wants students to take away from the summer writing academy, it's that learning can be enjoyable. “Their job is to be a student, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy their job,” she said.

HMTCA also requires incoming 10th graders to be involved in a summer science academy, which is taught at Trinity by local science teachers and students from liberal arts colleges.

Written by Matt Grahn