In Grad School, James Kass Had Idea: A Writing Workshop for Teens

Friday, March 25, 2016
KALW-FM -- 20 years ago, writer and educator James Kass was in grad school at SF State. And he had a small idea — a writing workshop for city teens. He felt that youth, especially youth of color, were being misunderstood by the larger culture, and he wanted to give them an outlet to speak for themselves. He had no idea how big that idea would get. Today, his organization Youth Speaks serves about 200,000 young people nationwide every year. Programs range from the original poetry writing and performance workshops to theater productions and partnerships with investigative journalists. Their signature event is the Bay Area teen poetry slam, an Olympic style competition leading up to a Grand Slam at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.