Nearly 80 students at Phoebus High School are taking their writing to a new level. These students are participating in The Origin Project. The Origin Project (TOP) is an in-school writing program that seeks to inspire young people to release their inner voices through the art of writing about their unique origins.

This program sprouted six years ago by bestselling author Adriana Trigiani and educational advocate Nancy Bolmeier Fisher from the idea that the stories and people of Appalachia are national treasures and its children should celebrate their roots. Since the program’s inception, TOP has expanded beyond its Appalachian roots to include a high school in Manassas and a learning center in Richmond, and is now working with our students here in Hampton at Phoebus High School.

The TOP program typically serves a diverse group of young people. It is a community of engaged learners rejoicing in their heritages. TOP galvanizes the students’ curiosity about, and respect for, each other. It develops and encourages the skills of writing and other artistic self-expression.

Each student participating in TOP was provided with a writing journal at the beginning of the school year. As each student works on their writing project about origin, they take field trips to places in the Commonwealth that celebrate history, music, theater and literature, as well as enjoy visits from guest authors. Their final writing projects will be published at the end of the school year in an anthology and presented in an assembly. Every student will receive a copy of the anthology and the anthology will also be made available at the school and public library. The Gupta Foundation in Virginia publishes the anthology.

On Tuesday, December 10, Nancy Bolmeier Fisher and Linda Woodward, TOP program operator, traveled from California and Southwest Virginia respectively to visit and work with students engaged in the pilot of The Origin Project (TOP) at Phoebus High School. Fisher and Woodward worked individually with students and encouraged them to find their voice. They emphasized that our family stories are the building blocks of our self-esteem and dreams for the future. 

The TOP process aligns with the division’s emphasis on social emotional learning, as well as the focus of self-exploration as part of our AoH experience. It also supports the division’s work around climate and culture as knowing and appreciating one’s own origin story makes one better able to value another’s.

Thanks to all who have enthusiastically embraced the TOP pilot here in Hampton – teachers Margaret Dee, Kasey Rizzo and Jeremy Blunt; PHS Administrators James Harris and Patrice Williams; and Kelli Cedo and Jennifer Butler, to name a few.