New York State Literary Center
"We need to know there is more. We need to know there are other options. We need to know history. We need to see a path to the future. We lack a sense of belief. To accomplish anything, you need first to believe you can. NYSLC is an example of how to connect with others, discuss topics concerning growth and education, show our families a different part of life, and inspire us to shoot for our dreams."
N. W., NYSLC Incarcerated Education Program 2016
Since 1979 the New York State Literary Center (NYSLC) has challenged and motivated students by providing programs that cultivate critical thinking, foster literacy, and develop new perspectives and new ways of thinking. NYSLC integrated writing, art, history, popular culture, and current events in an interdisciplinary project based, inquiry centered, culturally relevant pedagogy. Over 350 writers and artists worked with over 35,000 students in more than 600 different educational settings that span rural, suburban, and urban schools, alternative educational programs, day treatment, residential placement, long-term suspension, juvenile justice facilities, jails, and correctional facilities. NYSLC has published over 500 books of the writing by those in its programs and produced thirty CDs.
Since 2005, NYSLC’s focus has been on incarcerated education. This focus grew from NYSLC's history, experience, ongoing research in educational disconnection, low literacy levels, recidivism, detachment from any sense of community, and the consequences of incarceration for children when a parent is incarcerated.
In 2010, writing by incarcerated youth in a NYSLC program was featured in “Freedom of Expression: An Exhibition of Contemporary Diaries” at The Anne Frank Center in New York. The exhibition of diaries featured contemporary diaries, a facsimile of Anne Frank's original diary, some of the Freedom Writers' diaries, diaries by men and women in prison, and the diaries of those in NYSLC’s Arts, Literacy, and The Classroom Community program https://www.nyslc.org/annefrankabout.htm.
In 2013, NYSLC’s pilot program, “How to Get From Here To The Rest of The World,” connected NYSLC’s program in a correctional facility to the community https://www.nyslc.org/8thyearOverview.htm. The pilot program led NYSLC to identify children of those incarcerated as a community need that was not being met. Parents serving sentences did not suffer the consequences alone; children often lose contact with their parents and many times visits are rare. Research shows children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquent behavior, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves. The separation of incarceration causes stress on relationships, emotional and mental strain, and financial hardships that can leave a lasting impact on a child. The pilot program led to a newsletter, Food For Thought, https://www.nyslc.org/foodforthought/Food%20For%20Thought%20June%202015.pdf and Rebuilding Families, a NYSLC program designed to raise awareness that having a parent who is incarcerated is an additional risk factor for a child who is an unrecognized, innocent victim who has done nothing.
I developed theater pieces from the writing of those incarcerated in NYSLC’s programs, https://www.nyslc.org/video1964.htm, https://www.nyslc.org/ReadingJamesBaldwin.htm and https://www.nyslc.org/whatdowedonext.htm are three examples, which have been performed in jails, prisons, and correctional facilities. The writing of those in NYSLC’s programs was the inspiration for NYSLC’s murals on the history of Rochester https://www.nyslc.org/rockmural.htm, on the dreams those incarcerated wanted to share with their community https://www.nyslc.org/dreamsmural.htm, and on wanting to help parents and children communicate in visiting rooms https://www.nyslc.org/freedommural.htm. The murals have been exhibited in a gallery https://www.nyslc.org/picturingdreams.htm and are now housed in Monroe County Jail.
Given the unpredictable impact and circumstances of COVID-19, NYSLC is now challenged to build upon its ground breaking 40-year history and address its mission to serve high risk students, those incarcerated, children whose parents are incarcerated, and educators in today’s COVID-19 world. NYSLC will continue to provide information, resources, and research and will now connect through https://www.nyslc.org/ and Facebook, with updated resources, available educational opportunities, innovative approaches to teaching, and learning, and successful examples of family and cultural engagement. NYSLC will continue as an art and educational resource that advances education, rehabilitation, community engagement, and rebuilding families impacted by incarceration.
NYSLC will stay connected! Connect with us!
Please visit our Resources page https://www.nyslc.org/links.htm, check the 2020 - 2021 reading list https://www.nyslc.org/RecommendedReadings20-21.htm, and daily curated Facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/The-New-York-State-Literary-Center-297130463632593/ on the power of the arts as a cornerstone for correctional education. Send your thoughts and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. NYSLC will continue to engage in a creative exchange of information, create connection, and to inspire hope for the future.