Andrea's Blog: Reasons Why Phone Calls Can Be Fun

Hello everyone! My name is Andrea Davis, and Podium is my senior internship through the VCU School of Social Work. I am currently placed at Armstrong High School, and have recently been making phone calls to our youth’s guardians. This is one of my favorite parts of the internship, and here’s why:

  1. Acquiring a real sense of what the guardians feel like is happening in their youth’s “at school” lives, and how they are doing in their “home lives”. I often hear stories from guardians that they are aware of how much their youth love to write, and they believe that Podium has increased their voices and expressions in writing.
  2. Numerous guardians often state how they see a direct correlation between their youth attending Podium and their academic success.

One of the youth’s guardians recently stated, “I appreciate you calling and letting me know, my son doesn’t like to tell me much about school, so I appreciate this.”

Statements like this truly show me that Podium is not only in place as a writing tool, but also a caring and safe place for our youth and guardians to interact in.

These are only a few reasons why I personally love calling my youths’ guardians.

Growing as a Mentor

Oneisha was one of Podium's teen Writing Mentorship Project leaders this summer in Podium's summer programs at the East End District Family Resource Center and Peter Paul Development Center. This is what Oneisha had to say about her views on mentorship:

“Mentorship is very important in a world where people can be misguided and misjudged because they lack guidance. If a child, or even an adult, can have a mentor to show how things can turn out for better or for worse with the path you choose, then more people can be making great decisions instead of reckless ones that they did not know could mess up their livelihood, all because they lack guidance. For me being a mentor means that someone trusts me enough to help them when they are in need; it creates a bond of trust that every relationship needs. For my mentee, I would hope it means the same, that they feel some sort of safety in my presence and that they can share whatever they need with me.

        Deciding to become a writing mentor was never something I actually thought about, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I like the thought of helping someone ejecting their emotions through writing, because when you write with emotion of any kind it tends to be explained very well through your words without your knowing most of the time. Writing has always been something I loved and would never want or allow someone to take that from me. I want to tell other children that, too--that no one can take your words and that what you write has to be liked by you before it can be liked by your audience. Your confidence has to show through your work and your performance. I just want to be able to share that with them.

        During my role in the Writing Mentorship Project, I have learned that everyone does not think like me. I have also learned that I need to put my best foot forward in situations that could make me uncomfortable. I have learned that showing how you feel on the job can affect your work environment and even the students. In the end, I learned it is always a group effort that counts at the end of the day.”

Being a Writing Mentor

A guest blog from one of Podium’s first Writing Mentors - Unitha:

Mentorships are important because they allow people the opportunity to learn from others who are passionate about their craft and are completely invested in ensuring you learn as much as you can about what you are learning. In my own personal experience with mentorships they often go beyond that initial connection and people build lasting supportive friendships. Through Podium, I have met other students who share my passion for writing and want to see me improve as a writer. Writing mentorships are also important for this same reason; they give students and mentors the chance to learn from each other and improve their writing. Writing mentors are especially important because they provide a continuous learning experience. The mentors are always developing new ways to teach new ideas and make writing fun for everyone while students are learning valuable lessons and are actually in turn teach the mentors about what is most effective when trying to teach a new concept.


I decided to become a writing mentor because over the past year I have truly grown to love Podium and the Podium family. When given the opportunity to be part of the Writing Mentorship Project [link] I saw the chance learn more about writing myself but to also help younger children develop their voice and possibly see writing as a creative outlet.


       Over the summer, I have learned a lot while working at Podium. I've had to develop my own workshops. I have also had to learn how to fluidly move between normally taking an active role in a workshop to a passive role in the sense that I've had to step back and let other high school students lead their workshops. That is also one of the many things that is different in terms of being a mentor and being a Podium student. When I attend Podium workshops at my high school, I participate in the activity and the workshop is centered around my needs and what I need to learn. While being a writing mentor, I have had to center my workshops around the needs of the participants by developing workshops that grab their attention while also being informative. I also have had to keep in mind as an intern that not everyone will be so quick to understand a concept. It's important to take time and be able to explain the subject in a way that is easy to understand.  


        For my own personal and professional growth, I've had to communicate with my co-workers and peers as well as the students. The biggest hurdle for me was trying to remember that I could not always assume that just because I knew what I was talking about didn't mean that everyone else did, too. In terms of other personal skills I learned, I worked on not getting so inside my head while teaching. Students are just as wary of you upon introduction as you are of them, but if you can get over the initial discomfort that comes with new situations you are bound to have a good time.


        Overall my mentorship experience was a great one. I was able to accomplish my goal of helping younger students find their voices and got to spend a whole summer doing what I love and working with people who share the same passion for writing.

Alumni Spotlight: Franshawn Langley

Franshawn was a fantastic Podium student who graduated from Huguenot High School in 2012 - let her tell you a bit about her experience with empowering her expression!

“Before Podium, I wasn't in any extracurricular activities  because I was really shy and would rather just go home to draw. An English teacher of an enrichment class I was taking practically dragged me into being involved with Podium and I really appreciated it because I learned a lot about book design and editing, and made a few friends I wouldn't have otherwise.

I was on the design team for the first Podium journal and it was very exciting. We got to spend a lot of time at the Visual Arts Center [], where I had been meaning to go to for a while before then. It sparked my interest in layout design, and now I want to work on creating a children's book. It's not something I've done yet, but it is a goal I'm working towards.

Podium helped me realize and work toward my future goals. Since graduation, I've been working part-time as a freelance illustrator and working towards a degree in Early Childhood Education as well as helping out my mom, who is disabled. I attend J. Sargent Reynolds with plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University.”

Congratulations Franshawn on discovering your dreams! We are so happy Podium had a step in the process.


The Podium Team