Opinion: Berkeley’s WriterCoach Connection is a magical program

There is real pleasure working one-on-one with a student. The program is looking for more volunteers.

After 10 years of volunteering with WriterCoach Connection (WCC) should I be embarrassed by the exhilaration I feel beginning my eleventh year? Beginning the eleventh year of many things is often not exciting. It may be pleasant like favorite slippers or Ella Fitzgerald’s voice—a thing comfortably comfortable—but rarely does it provide that elusive, fresh-tingle of magic. Still, that is exactly what I experienced on day one of coaching this fall.

This exhilaration did not derive from the fact that a chunk of my retirement time was occupied looking over rough drafts, offering tips here or there, or brainstorming, or encouraging. Some of the excitement, but by no means all, came from those activities. They are a major part of what WCC does. My reboot of intensity flowed specifically from the one-on-one, intergenerational connection between myself and the students.

Since its inception in 2001, WCC coaches have worked one-on-one. That principle remains both valid and valuable. Of course, my main goal, and that of all the WCC volunteers is that the students benefit from what I am able to share. The aim is to help develop and focus their efforts to express themselves, sort out their voice in a noisy world, help them think critically and communicate more fully.

There is another aspect of coaching, however, that cannot be underestimated and that is the benefits experienced by the volunteer. The experience is as good for me I believe as it is for the student. Discovering and nurturing a student’s uniqueness is rich with rewards. It makes unique demands on my flexibility; it stretches me. Each student brings to the coaching room the many-colored threads of their family experience, of their ways of thinking, interests and desires. It is this privilege of collaborating with young minds that retains the magic year after year.

So no! there is no shame, not a shred of embarrassment that beginning another year with WCC generates genuine pleasure. I would encourage anyone who cares about good writing, critical thinking and the importance of helping our young people acquire those skills to sign up as a volunteer coach at www.writercoachconnection.org.

Kent Wright has been a volunteer coach with WriterCoach Connection since 2008. He received a Jefferson Award for his service in 2018.