CAMDEN — A blank page can be transformed into anything an imagination can dream of when a pen touches paper. It’s why Marc Hummel is so passionate about writing.
This summer, the Rutgers–Camden 2010 graduate is lending his passion to Philadelphia school children to help them foster their creativity and express themselves through writing and reading.
Hummel, an English major who graduated from Rutgers–Camden in May, interns with Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization whose goal is to “awaken city kids to the wonders of writing.”
“Writing is the best way to express yourself,” the 25-year-old Hummel says. “I like seeing what the kids can do. It’s powerful. I know that the writing skills in our city aren’t very good, so it lifts me up when I see the kids working on their projects and accomplishing something.”
Hummel, whose volunteer work at the writing center since 2009 led to his internship there, tutors students ages seven to 17 and guides them through various writing exercises and workshops on everything from poetry to sports writing and movie reviews.
“Mighty Writers is about the students having fun when they write,” Hummel says. “That’s what I’ve always liked about it. They’re writing papers, writing poetry, and reading. It’s a skill and a passion and the kids are in immersed in the environment.”
According to the Mighty Writers website, the students who enroll in the program “learn that writing well requires responsibility, accountability and patience—and when you write effectively and persuasively, confidence follows and moves you toward your goals.”
The students are also encouraged to read both independently and in groups, and one summer workshop allows them to explore the Bone series of graphic novels by Jeff Smith.
A former Elk Township resident and Delsea High School graduate, Hummel now lives in Philadelphia. His parents, Fred and Susan Hummel, still live in Elk Township.
He says he’s often inspired by what the children write, and helping them craft stories is a rewarding experience.
“I try to get them to like what they’re writing about so they don’t feel forced to do it,” he says. “It’s great to see what they can accomplish.”
Hummel’s volunteer work also led to a unique research opportunity. He applied his experience at Mighty Writers to a service learning project for his Introduction to Writing Studies course at Rutgers–Camden. He analyzed the mission, goals, and practices of Mighty Writers to identify what distinguishes the organization from other community literacy programs.
“Some community writing centers tend to be career-oriented or academic, but Mighty Writers stresses having fun with your writing,” Hummel says. “I think that’s an incentive. There’s a real benefit there.”
He also tied his observations at Mighty Writers into genre study, finding that the community writing center encourages the students’ ability to recognize and practice various genre forms, making them better writers.
Hummel was awarded Rutgers–Camden’s 2010 Margaret Marsh Undergraduate Research Award, which recognizes original research conducted by undergraduates.
As an intern, Hummel is able to create his own initiatives for the Mighty Writers students in addition to his tutoring work.
He is planning to apply for grant money that would be used to purchase materials — like seeds and fertilizer — for a nutrition and gardening project in which the Mighty Writers students would harvest crops and keep a record of their progress.
Although his internship ends at the end of July, Hummel says he plans to continue to volunteer as a tutor at Mighty Writers for the rest of the summer and beyond.
He is also pursuing a career as a writer.
“I'm interested in illustrated stories and visual essays, using text to power the narrative, as well as new ways of writing fiction online,” Hummel says. “I particularly want to experiment with ways to make storytelling unique to each reader.”
Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse