Pros&Conversation: A recap

Supporters, sponsors, staff, and students 170 strong gathered on May 9th, 2019, to celebrate student voice at Pros&Conversation. This annual fundraiser raises essential dollars to support WriteBoston’s teacher training and free student writing programs.

Featuring an author panel and our own bright teenage writers, this year’s event surpassed several milestones. Our attendee count reached an all-time high, we set an event record for dollars raised to support student literacy (over $110,000!), and we broke in a new venue: the UMass Club in beautiful downtown Boston.

To start, guests enjoyed a mix-and-mingle reception: dining, catching up, and taking in the stunning views from our 32nd floor vantage point.

For added entertainment, the talented Cassandra de Alba (of the Traveling Poetry Emporium) composed poems-to-order for guests, on a topic of their choice. Our Teens in Print student journalists conducted on-the-spot interviews in a pop-up newsroom, a fun initiative we piloted just last winter. Guests had the chance to see our students’ interviewing skills in action, answering questions about anything from their favorite fictional duo to a love letter they might have written as a teen (a la Meredith Goldstein’s Globe column).

The evening program began with the most exciting of things: a premiere! WriteBoston’s new organizational video, generously filmed and produced by CTP Boston, was debuted for the first time to our Pros&Conversation guests. If you missed it, it’s worth taking a look.

To complement the video, we introduced our audience to two of its stars. Our two keynotes—a student and a teacher—offered a holistic picture of WriteBoston’s work at either end of the education spectrum.

First up: Mariella Murillo, a junior at Boston Arts Academy and staff writer for Teens in Print, grew up with a love for writing and storytelling. But without an outlet to tell those stories—aside from school and her personal journal—she felt like her creativity was stifled. Joining Teens in Print improved Mariella’s confidence, elevated her writing skills, and gave her a platform to share her ideas with the world.

Mariella Murillo student speaker
“One day, people will put quotes from my books on inspirational posters, in their Twitter bios, and on those signs you can buy from the home section at Target…without Teens in Print, I would have continued believing that I had to wait before I could truly share my writing with others.”

Next up was Greg Shuman, a marketing teacher at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School. The Boston Public School has been a WriteBoston partner since 2016. An early career teacher, Greg spoke about the difficulties he faces engaging his students and creating lesson plans that meet the rigorous standards required for voc-tech schools in Massachusetts. WriteBoston literacy coach Kelly spent considerable time with Greg this year helping plan lessons that not only meet those standards, but truly engage his students.

“I told [my WriteBoston coach] Kelly my goal and she helped me figure out how to reach it AND how to engage my students in ways that did not involve lecture…Now what I’m doing is appreciated by my students, and that makes me want to come to work.”

And finally, on to the main event: the author panel. Two of our own Teens in Print journalists, Tiffany Cespedes and Jacob Downey, introduced and interviewed our authors: Danielle Allen, Joshua Foer, Meredith Goldstein, and Marjan Kamali.

Tiffany and Jacob asked incisive questions, encouraging deep commentary on topics like the challenges of writing historical fiction, the art of advice-giving, and the role that our authors’ various backgrounds played in their writing careers. Our authors—as always—were adept, inspiring, and unique.

The most striking quotes came in response to the final question:

What do you find most inspiring about the next generation of young people?

At long last, guests, students, and authors alike congregated in the reception area for a meet-and-greet and book signing. We heard from many long-standing supporters that this was the best Pros&Conversation they’d attended so far. With compliments for our keynotes and panelists abound, guests left the evening buzzing with excitement about the next generation of young writers.

Many thanks to Johnson Photography, Inc. for all the event photos. View more pictures on the WriteBoston Facebook page.

Thank you to our sponsors...

Sponsor photos

...and the Pros&Conversation Host Committee

Maren Anderson, President, MDA Consulting Inc.

Carol Downs, Co-Owner, Bella Luna & The Milky Way Restaurant

Maureen Franco, President, LifeSci Public Relations

Karen James, Assistant Vice President of Leadership Development, The Partnership, Inc.

Lisa Lawler, Corporate Communications, Sanofi Genzyme

Jenny Leopold, BINcA Writing Center volunteer and community yoga instructor

Kelly McDonough, Assistant Vice President & Relationships Manager, Wells Fargo

Cynthia Mohr

Linda Rubenstein, Owner, Extra Hands for You

Viviana Scrugli, Vice President, Commercial Real Estate Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Ronna Tarlow, Corporate ESL trainer, specializing in supporting biopharma companies

David VanNess Taylor, Former journalist and newspaper editor

Bob Turner, Former WriteBoston board member and Senior Advisor at UMass Boston McCormack Graduate School