Butler Writers program founded at Shortridge

Writing in the Schools course offered for the first time at Butler University, providing service opportunities for students to assist with in-school tutoring and an after-school creative writing group.


Program receives grant and award recognition

Butler Writers receives a Jefferson Award for Public Service and a three-year grant from the Jerry L. and Barbara J. Burris Foundation.


IPS partnership expands with second high school

Responding to a shift within Indianapolis Public Schools, Butler Writers continues after-school programming at Shortridge, while adding in-school tutoring and a second creative writing club at Broad Ripple Magnet School.


Lilly Foundation doubles-down in support of BW

The Lilly Foundation follows up on its first gift of $38,000 in 2014 with a $35,000 gift that supports annual publication of student lit journals, staff scholarships, and sustenance for our writers.


Reverberations and Ripple Effect hit the shelves

For the first time, Butler Writers celebrates the dual publication of print magazines for students at Shortridge (Reverberations) and Broad Ripple (Ripple Effect).


Butler Writers Studio opens with Future Center backing

With the closing of Broad Ripple, Butler Writers consolidates at Shortridge and implements a college-style writing center with the support of a grant for IPS Future Centers, awarded by the Lilly Endowment.


Butler Writers is a cooperative project that connects students from Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), the second-largest school district in the state of Indiana, with student mentors from Butler's Department of English and MFA Creative Writing programs. 

The mission of Butler Writers is to create unique mentor-mentee relationships to amplify the voices of high school students in the Indianapolis community and empower them as classroom writers and creative thinkers through interaction with college role models. The program is designed to present creative and expository writing opportunities to underserved populations, including students of color and those from low- and middle-income families.


Through Butler Writers, coordinated by English Department faculty member and Shortridge High School writing specialist Chris Speckman, high school students are connected with trained and caring Butler mentors who devote their time and energy to better their mentees' prospects for a prosperous future before and after graduation. Since 2011, Butler Writers has operated highly successful co-curricular programming at Shortridge High School and Broad Ripple Magnet School for the Arts & Humanities (subsequently closed and merged into Shortridge), generating more than 1,500 mentor-mentee contact hours annually and serving more than 1,000 unique IPS students.

As part of the Butler Writers after-school creative writing club, Butler mentors lead small groups of students through a wide range of prompts and activities, culminating in an open mic reading where students are encouraged to share their work through a variety of expressions, including poetry, prose, song, rap, dance, and visual art. Student work from these sessions is first published online here and then curated at the conclusion of each school year into a print publication, which serves as a beautiful physical artifact to celebrate young writers.

The Butler Writers Studio opened at Shortridge for the 2018-19 as an extension of the IPS Future Center program, providing students with the autonomy to schedule one-on-one appointments with writing tutors, both peers and Butler volunteers. During the first year of the studio, 650 students met for individual appointments, with more than 3,600 total contact points between writing tutors and students. 

Current undergraduate and graduate students at Butler can enroll in EN 455-S: Writing in the Schools, a service-learning course designed to facilitate Butler Writers mentorship. The course seeks to reinforce how relationship building, positive reinforcement, and interconnectivity through language are vital strategies for helping to serve the needs of an urban school district. EN 455-S is a three-credit hour course that fulfills the MFA program's service requirement as well as Butler's Center for Citizenship and Community's Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR) credit, both strong affirmations of the university's dedication to making a difference that stretches far beyond campus limits. 

Further support of Butler Writers will afford our team with a greater opportunity to reimagine the relationship between college and high school, mentor and mentee, today and tomorrow. Please reach out to cspeckma@butler.edu for inquiries about how to get involved.


I have come away from this class a better writer, a better student,

and, honestly, even a better person with my newfound dedication

to public service. I know not everyone enjoys writing and not

everyone enjoys working with teenagers, but I cannot help but think

that everyone at Butler that does not experience this class is missing out."

Becky Bolton, Butler University Class of 2014

“This class is so iconic. It is so incredibly necessary to read

the books we read, to research the topics we researched,

and to share spaces with the kids we mentored. I can't stress

how much this class was impactful for me and how

impactful it was for the students we mentored."

Alex KassanButler University Class of 2020

“I love being able to talk face-to-face with the helpers here. 

I enjoy their educated and insightful feedback.

Their help is appreciated wholeheartedly."

Niaya Taylor, Shortridge HS Class of 2019