Young Writers Program

Young Writers Program openingThe Young Writers Program is dedicated to Santa Cruz County students in grades 4-12 and their teachers in building students’ writing skills and confidence.

Young Writers Program History

The Young Writers Program began in 2012 as a project of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Since then, the program has served over 2000 students with over 6000 volunteer hours, and produced more than 35 publications of student writing, serving over 2000 grade 4-12 students county wide. Publications are available for purchase at local bookstores. Beginning with an In-Classroom Project, the Young Writers Program added a Dedicated Writing Room Project and an After-School Writing Center Project, the Word Lab, and adjacent gallery,The Chamber of Heart & Mystery, at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz. A public/private entity, the Young Writers Program’s non-profit arm is fiscally sponsored by Arts Council Santa Cruz County. The Young Writers Program also collaborates with Museo Eduardo Carrillo to produce the Hablamos Juntos Series.

How the Program Works

Volunteers are the backbone of the Young Writers Program. They register online and, after getting fingerprinted and providing proof they are TB negative, are set to step into the classroom. Professional training sessions are provided to help them support grade 4th through 12th grade public school students and their writing. Classroom projects take place throughout the year, lasting from four to eight weeks and volunteers typically contribute 2 hours a week in the classroom or at The Word Lab. One-on-one mentoring is invaluable in providing students the personalized attention they need as their writing develops. Because students are working with publication in mind, they learn the value of revision and editing.


Please see the Young Writers Program’s website for more information:


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Young Writers Program – “Every Word Counts” from Gadgetbox on Vimeo.

Julia Chiapella, Director of the Young Writers Program

Julia worked as Art Director for ETR Associates before becoming a freelance journalist covering the arts for the Bay Area. She earned her MA in Education in 2005 and taught at the elementary level as both a classroom teacher and a writing specialist. A poet and writer, she and writing colleagues Jory Post and Karen Ackland created Santa Cruz Writes in the fall of 2011 to enhance literary opportunities for Santa Cruz County residents. Julia has been directing the Young Writers Program since the fall of 2012.

Robin Estrin, Word Lab Director

Robin Estrin is a writer and radio DJ from southern California. She earned her BA from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied English literature and politics and served as an editor of Chinquapin Literary Magazine. A passionate student and educator, Robin began volunteering with the Young Writers Program in 2015, and has since taught poetry and fiction to fifth and sixth graders at Badgerdog, a creative writing summer camp in Austin, Texas. When not working, Robin is reading widely, spinning records on KZSC 88.1 FM, or thinking creatively about education reform. She intends to pursue an MFA in poetry.

Stuart Rodriguez, Publications Coordinator

Stuart Rodriquez is a writer, editor, and Bay Area native. He is an alumnus of the University of Southern California, where he studied creative writing and songwriting. Before being hired by the Young Writers Program, he spent more than two years as a volunteer editor and book designer for the Young Writers Program where he edited students’ poems and stories and designed and laid out students’ work for publication. When not at work, he enjoys writing fiction, reading, cycling, and the many meet-ups and special events in the Santa Cruz area.

Yareli Arreola, Volunteer Coordinator

Yareli Arreola is a mango enthusiast who loves community building and social activism. Yareli was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was six. Learning English as a second language was challenging for her but Yareli found solace in writing. A strong advocate for the art of storytelling and the power it has to create connections and opportunities to learn, Yareli holds a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Education from UC Santa Cruz. On days when she’s not focused on building community you can catch her riding her bike, eating fruit, or doing some window shopping somewhere downtown.