CWU News

CWU Writing Project Expands This Year to Promote Family Literacy Programs

Central Washington Writing Project

A long-running literacy initiative at Central Washington University has partnered with Mt. Stuart Elementary School in Ellensburg over the past year to mark the end of an era and reflect on the challenges of the past 16 months.

A $15,000 grant from the National Writing Project and the Panda Cares Foundation provided the Central Washington Writing Project (CWWP) with an opportunity to expand its mission this year to include leadership development for early-career teachers and to establish new family literacy programs in the community. 

Five educators at Mt. Stuart — Chezla Madson, Loni Edie, Maggie Marley, Joseph Chang, and Brandon Shields — were selected as fellows for the CWWP project and have been working with students and their families over the past month to create written and video stories for a time capsule that won’t be opened until 2045.

All of the completed projects will be placed into the time capsule — along with a digital thumb drive and assorted memories from 2020-21 (i.e., masks) — during a virtual ceremony June 9 at 7:30 p.m. 

“I think it’s so amazing that these kids have an opportunity to work with their families to share their experiences from the past year,” said Mt. Stuart teacher Cynthia Hilburn, who has worked alongside CWU English professor and CWWP director Bobby Cummings for the past five years.

“A lot of our families come from a Title I background, and this is a chance to show them that activities like this can be really valuable,” she added. “It also shows them that they have a place to grow here at Mt. Stuart. They are part of the greater community and they are integral to what we are doing here.”

The time capsule will feature memorabilia from the old Mt. Stuart schoolhouse, which will be torn down this summer after standing for 50 years. Students and staff will move into a new building in the fall, and the time capsule will give the children a chance to share a greeting with the next generation.

“We’re saying goodbye to the old Mt. Stuart, but we’re also saying hello to the new Mt. Stuart,” Hilburn said. “It’s also a chance to share how COVID has impacted these families over the past year. It will be fun for them to see this in 25 years and say, ‘that represents my family.’” 

CWWP is one of 21 programs participating in the 2021 National Writing Project and Panda Cares Family Literacy Project, which provided $5,000 for the project and $10,000 to be distributed among the fellows. All five teachers work in kindergarten through third grade, and each of them has demonstrated the ability to lead. 

“The fellows are attending workshops, learning about literacy, and developing leadership skills that are going to help strengthen the school-community connection,” Hilburn said. “This is a great opportunity for them and the families of Mt. Stuart.”

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518.