Photos by Johnson Photography, Inc.  Click to view more at our Facebook page.

On Thursday, April 12, more than 120 guests gathered together at Sanofi Genzyme to attend Pros&Conversation, WriteBoston’s annual fundraiser.

The night began with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and friendly conversation between friends, strangers, and students directly impacted by WriteBoston programming. After mingling, music, and typewriter poetry, guests moved into the auditorium where our Executive Director Sarah Poulter introduced the student keynote speaker, Seana Fuller.

Seana’s speech described her first experiences with writing, her discovery of our Teens in Print and Summer Journalism Institute programs, and her multimedia article about navigating the school system with a learning disability. Seana described the deep joy and pride of publication:

When the newspaper came out in September, I opened up the paper and turned to my story right away. I was so proud. I realized that I wanted everyone—from my mom to the kids who had bullied me in school—to read this story. Writing was no longer just for my diary. Writing was for others to see and value. Through my experience with WriteBoston and Teens in Print, I realized that I wasn’t just the girl with the “learning disability.”

I realized I had a voice.

In two months, Seana will graduate from Charlestown High School and from WriteBoston programming. She hopes to attend UMass Boston, where she plans to major in English, African Studies, and Film, with the hope of becoming a screenwriter.

After Seana received a raucous round of applause from all the attendees, Deputy Director & Chief Academic Officer Jessie Gerson took the stage, where she presented on WriteBoston’s many accomplishments over the past school year.

Among some of the facts and figures Jessie presented to the crowd, she reported that 88% of youth feel more prepared for future jobs, and 96% of youth feel greater readiness for job and college opportunities after participating in our Teens in Print program. When discussing our Writing Center at Boston International Newcomers Academy, Jessie shared that over 90% of students report writing growth after working with a Writing Center tutor. After sharing an excerpt of a college scholarship essay, finely honed in our Writing Center, Jessie shifted focus to our professional development and teacher training. In the midst of highlighting partnerships with Boston Public Schools, CityYear, and others, Jessie zeroed in our multi-year partnership with the Chelsea Public Schools, reporting a 55% reduction in low-literacy engagement classrooms in Chelsea’s middle schools as a direct product of our work.

With the audience in good spirits, celebrating the success of an incredible year of programming, TiP reporters Ivy and Kenneth introduced and subsequently interviewed our panel of guest authors—Jabari Asim, Madeleine Blais, Stephen Kinzer, and Mira T. Lee.

Ivy and Kenneth were both adept and professional interviewers, broaching topics ranging from representation in literature and dispelling cultural myths to writing about personal experience and writing across genres. All of the authors were succinct, insightful, and incredibly quotable. To relive all their questions and answers, check out our Twitter account which live-tweeted the whole event! To cap off the evening, Sarah returned to the stage and asked all the authors what they found most inspiring about the next generation of writers. Click through below to read some of their answers.

After closing remarks and thanks from Board President Jim Tierney, guests returned to the Genzyme lobby, which was transformed into an author meet-and-greet! Guests grabbed books from all four authors and then lined up for autographs and one-on-one conversation. As guests filtered out, books in hand, their conversations repeatedly revolved around the impression the students had left on them. As Jabari Asim described in the Q&A, “they sparkle with wonder.”

Photos from the event can be found on our Facebook page. Thank you to our sponsors, guests, students, and supporters, with special thanks to event host Sanofi Genzyme.  None of this is possible without you.