Who are you?
How do you think about yourself?
How are you viewed by the world?
And what characteristics define you?
Those are a few of the tough questions that will be posed during a writing course, a program designed for high school students by two immigrants — of which one lives in Port Coquitlam.
Next month, South African native Daniela Cohen, a Vancouver resident, and Andreina Romero of Venezuela will launch their first Identity Pages session aimed at students in grades 8 to 12 who want to build self-confidence and connect with peers while also improving their writing skills.
The idea for the Identity Pages sprung out of their work with youth in schools, Cohen told the Tri-City News; the personal stories they heard from students prompted the pair to create a safe space for teens to express themselves creatively and to learn more about themselves.
Through their writing program, “we are hoping to give youth an opportunity to explore their identity in a deeper, more focused way through writing,” Romero said, noting identity could be defined through ability, age, religion, gender, citizenship status, sexual orientation and ethnicity.
Romero said participants will be asked to pick one aspect of their identity to focus on during the course, and write a story they will refine over the 10 weeks with the goal of having it published.
As facilitators, Cohen and Romero will give tips on story construction, character description and editing while also providing guidance on how to reflect thoughts and feelings through words.
Participants don’t have to have any writing skills — just a want to write their own story and have it heard. “There’s a lot of power in that,” Cohen said, “because it gives you a deeper understanding of who you are…. We know how much youth are dealing with today especially during COVID. This program gives them an environment to express themselves and be supported.”
Both Cohen and Romero are well versed in the fields of mentoring and writing.
Cohen, a graduate of the SFU Writers Studio and the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, volunteered with a South African non-profit group called Amazwi that empowers rural African women to share their stories (she wrote about her experiences in the Canadian Immigrant magazine). Currently, she’s working on a memoir and writes for The Source, a publication focusing on diversity. Cohen holds UBC bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education.
Romero, meanwhile, is a bilingual contributor at The Source and has her master’s degree in French literature and film studies from SFU. She writes on her blog, Things We Love, and in 2019 she launched a podcast called Girls Talk About Music.
• Identity Pages, a writing mentorship program, is geared for teens ages 13 to 18. The first intake starts Feb. 18 via Zoom, on Thursday nights. Bursaries are available. Visit identitypages.ca.