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Best youth and community development: Write253

Winner in 2017's Best of Tacoma

Write253 youth film camp participants posing for a photo taken after receiving lessons on photographic composition. Photo courtesy Write253

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"Vital stories exist," says Michael Haeflinger. "And a lot of times, if you're not asked, ‘what is your story?' you'll be hesitant to tell it. We don't ask young people what they think or how they feel about things often enough, either. So, Write253 offers writing opportunities and spaces for kids to tell their stories."

As the executive director of Write253, a non-profit organization that provides meaningful and transformative writing opportunities to Pierce County youth, Haeflinger understands how important it is to get youths' stories out into the community. Because of Write253's continuous dedication to providing a public platform for local youth over the last six years, Write253 takes the award for Best Youth and Community Development Organization in this year's Best of Tacoma.

"If there's any part of our mission that I really value," says Haeflinger, "it's a sense of community building among the youth, so they can create spaces to be writers and artists amongst themselves."

Founded in 2011 by current board president Mary Fox and a small group of educators and teaching artists, the name "Write253" has become synonymous with youth development and community building. The organization boasts an impressive lineup of summer writing and film camps, after school writing clubs and spoken word competitions for youth that draw hundreds of youth each year.

Write253's main programs are the Remann Hall Writing Club, which started in 2016 and consists of bi-weekly writing workshops for incarcerated youth at the Remann Hall Detention Center, the annual Louder Than A Bomb teen team poetry slam and after school writing clubs for middle and elementary school students attending Tacoma public schools.

"Louder Than a Bomb is a program that builds community around writing and performing poetry," says Haeflinger. "Schools and community organizations field teams to compete in a friendly poetry slam that focuses on providing spaces for youth to speak their minds. Our hope is that each year, we add more teams until every middle and high school in the region is represented." Another of Write253's long-term goals is to host after school writing clubs to each of Tacoma's public middle schools. "We're trying to find balance and offer programing that speaks to different levels of engagement and interest," says Haeflinger.

Earlier this summer, Write253 collaborated with Centro Latino, Pierce County Library System and Tacoma Public Library to hold the summer film camp Bringing a Better World Into Focus. Finished films will be shown at the Latino Arts Fest August 26 in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood.

Write253 is holding a free summer writing camp starting in August and Youth Day at the Cascadia Poetry Festival October 13. For more information visit  

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