Fort Valley State University Extension helps local students cultivate genius, joy with new program

Published By: Latasha Ford June 26, 2023

Latasha Ford (second from left on back row) and Dr. Yolanda Surrency (fourth from right on back row) honored the writers on Oct. 29, 2022, during a special ceremony at the Turner County Civic Center.

Writer’s Playground is a new Fort Valley State University (FVSU) Extension program created by Latasha Ford, FVSU research communications manager and a Turner County High School graduate, and Dr. Yolanda Surrency, FVSU technology curriculum specialist. The pilot program began as a vision years ago that came to fruition by co-creator Ford, who wanted to share her love for reading and writing with young thinkers.

With support from their Cooperative Extension leadership at FVSU, Ford and Surrency designed a free creative writing and technology course that aims to foster middle and high school students’ creative thinking and writing, as well as strengthen their research and presentation skills. The pair offered Writer’s Playground in 2022 in Ashburn, Georgia. This project received strong community support from Turner County High School, James Hall Jr., Greater St. Luke Baptist Church members, parents and additional community members.

The application process was open to Turner County middle and high school students. The writers accepted into the program were Erica Peak, Jada Poteau, Taylor Hardin and Olivia Wilson. They devoted five Saturdays in October 2022 to developing a higher level of thinking by studying diverse poems and short stories, analyzing the devices used in those literary works and applying the strategies to their own work. They learned how to deepen their understanding and present different perspectives in their writings while gaining the confidence to use their voices and find their creative identities. They gained valuable skills that they can use in the classroom, college and in their future profession.

The writers presented their own powerful writing pieces at the end of the program and received a participation certificate during a special ceremony with family, Turner County High School Principal Jason Clark and Fort Valley State University Extension Administrator Dr. Mark Latimore.

Turner County High School Principal Jason Clark (far right) recognizes the Writer’s Playground program creator Latasha Ford (far left) and writers (from second left) Taylor Hardin, Erica Peak, Olivia Wilson and Jada Poteau during the Honors Night banquet on April 25, 2023. Each student received a laptop and certificate.

In addition, the principal recognized the program and presented the students with laptops and certificates during the Turner County High School Honors Night banquet on April 25, 2023.

Furthermore, the Writer’s Playground course received a bronze award as part of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) Critique & Awards Program. The team was recognized at the 2023 ACE Conference in June in Asheville, North Carolina.

Through Writer’s Playground, writers cultivate genius and joy. The next course is scheduled for fall 2023 on FVSU's campus.

Writer's Playground logo.