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On a Tuesday afternoon in a classroom in Harlem, a manager from Morgan Stanley’s Legal and Compliance Division can be found in deep conversation with a 12-year-old student, debating the right point-of-view for a compelling short story. This unlikely scenario was a common one at Sheltering Arms’ After School program in West Harlem this past semester. Over the last 8 months, mentors from Morgan Stanley helped the students become outstanding authors of their own original stories. By walking them through strategies for setting the scene, developing characters, and creating suspenseful plots, the Morgan Stanley volunteers enhanced the students’ academic skills, and opened their eyes to future careers.
Students in the Morgan Stanley Book Publishing Club are aspiring writers who chose the opportunity to spend their afternoons developing short stories. “It was a fun way to express all that inner creativity that you want. I basically put it in a book so I could share my creativity with others around the world. The class was so fun, and I got to work with some really nice volunteers,” said one 7th grader in the class.
Volunteers felt similarly about the chance to mentor students. “I was very fortunate to work with Jeremiah, because he just loves writing,” said one volunteer. “He’s very creative, extremely intelligent, and very enthusiastic about the project. I was just blown away that a 7th grader would be excited about writing after school.”
Despite their passion for writing, many of the students were not meeting state standards in the subject area. At school, students benefit from lessons that prepare them for the exams they’ll need to pass to enter choice high schools. With high school graduation rates as low as 48% in the neighborhood, it’s clear that students need even more support: more learning time, and alternative ways of learning.
The Morgan Stanley Book Publishing club provided this special formula to our students. Those behind in writing had an extra three hours per week to hone their skills. Working with the Morgan Stanley volunteers, many of whom are professional writers, added an extra connection to the real world that sparked students’ interest in learning more. The results of their collaboration became clear over the course of the semester.
“Ms. Tamiko helped me A LOT,” said one student of his volunteer mentor. Another student noted that correcting her story was the most difficult part, but resulted in a published version that made her proud. “Devorey has a really strong work ethic,” said her mentor. “It’s definitely something that will help her succeed and go to college in the future.”
For many students like Devorey, success in college and beyond can be traced to the exposure to professional mentors and real-world opportunities like those Morgan Stanley provides. We are committed to making sure every child in our programs has the same opportunity to succeed. Opportunities like the Book Publishing Club are being replicated at eight sites throughout four boroughs, and in 2014, Sheltering Arms will expand its after school programs, introducing many more students to the mentors who can unlock their potential.