READING, Pa. — Fifteen students from a variety of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York colleges have been selected to labor during this year’s Labor Day weekend Writing Wrongs project. During a 72-hour workshop held in Berks County, the students, working as staff writers, photographers, designers, and social media managers will conduct research and interviews, draft articles, and design pages for a printed book available for sale through national book sellers that highlights stories of members of the LGBTQ+ community, this year’s Writing Wrongs topic.
In its fifth year, Writing Wrongs—a community journalism project dedicated to generating awareness and promoting understanding of critical social issues—is the brain child of Dawn Heinbach, a Reading Area Community College and Kutztown University graduate, whose sophomore year honors project to develop a community-based journalism workshop to share the stories of local people impacted by societal issues has grown into a nonprofit organization that has produced one newspaper and three books on a variety of issues ranging from homelessness and addiction to sexual and domestic abuse.
In discussing the growth of Writing Wrongs, Heinbach said, “Every year the program is expanding to include students from a wider radius. We have students from well-known, competitive schools as well as students from community colleges volunteering their time and skills to explore these important issues as they pertain to the residents of Reading. The point to remember when looking at the book and videos they create is that the students accomplish all this in just one weekend.”
Explaining her reasons for participating in this year’s program, Sydney Herdle, a Penn State University Park student who will serve as staff photographer, said, “Growing up a member of the LGBTQ+ community in an area where it is, well, not very appreciated or supported, I had to scour outside sources to learn about the community. … I promised my younger self that once I was comfortable and confident in my lifestyle and understood others’ well enough, I would give back to our community by helping share our members’ stories.”
Echoing those sentiments, Carly O’Neill, Millersville University of Pennsylvania student and Writing Wrongs staff writer, added, “Being the daughter of two dads, the LGBTQ+ community has a direct effect on me. My padres, as I call them, have opened the door to this community and allowed me to share this beautiful life with them.” In participating in Writing Wrongs, Carly feels she will be able to bring light to the stories of those “who feel closeted or misinterpreted in a world full of discrimination.”
She says it’s important for these voices to be heard in “a meaningful way” that allows “others to feel inspired and accepting.” The LGBT Center of Greater Reading is partnering with Writing Wrongs this year, providing speakers and a space for interviews with members of the LGBT community whose stories will frame this year’s book. “We are incredibly grateful and honored to be partnered and working with Writing Wrongs to raise awareness and promote a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community,” LGBT Center Director Michelle Dech said.
“We applaud and support those that will bravely tell of their journey as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Many stories will highlight discrimination in the form of verbal abuse, denial of services, physical abuse and bullying. Although these stories are difficult to share, participants know that it’s an opportunity to potentially save someone’s life that may be experiencing the same bigotry.”
Writings Wrongs holds 501(c)(3) nonprofit status through its fiscal sponsor, Humanitarian Social Innovations. This program is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; and by local businesses and individuals. You can learn more about Writing Wrongs at seekreporttruth.com.