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Writers in the Schools (WITS) has been awarded a three-year grant from Youth Speaks to help develop and expand Houston performance poetry programming. The grant will help expand access to the Meta-Four Houston slam team that represents Houston both locally and nationally.The grant is part of the Brave New Voices (BNV) Network Initiative which was launched by Youth Speaks of San Francisco after receiving initial funding from two Bay Area supporters, as well as the Ford and Surdna Foundations.

The BNV Network Initiative will build and strengthen capacity of organizations offering youth literacy programs across the nation. Of the 75 organizations in the network, 16 received these grants. According to James Kass, the founder of Youth Speaks and lead designer of the initiative, “This is a critical opportunity for us to work as a field, to develop our shared expertise, to strengthen our base and make visible the voices of 21st Century America. We cannot continue to see arts education as being on the fringe and this will plant us firmly in the center, where young people belong.”

Shannon Buggs, Emanualee Outspoken Bean, and Robin Reagler represented WITS at the kick-off event for the BNV Network in San Francisco earlier this month. According to Executive Director Robin Reagler, “We will use this funding to expand WITS Performance programs, which were launched after we adopted Meta-Four Houston in 2012. Houston youth understand more about our community that we realize, and It is our hope that Meta-Four can be an exciting way for them to make their voices heard.”

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