Deidre Green believes in the power of writing. She sees it as a tool that empowers students and increases their confidence in school.

Green is the managing editor of the Simpson Street Free Press, which provides journalism and writing training for Madison-area students, and there is no doubt that her work with that organization is a key part of what led YWCA Madison to choose her as one of its 2016 Women of Distinction.

Before becoming one of the Free Press’ leaders, Green was a participant in the program from middle school through high school, and it was during that time that she wrote a column called the “Gap According to Green” that focused on the achievement gap in Dane County for students of color and the low expectations they face in their schools.

Now 24, Green was a first-generation college student — she received her bachelor’s degree in English from UW-Madison last year — and plans to attend graduate school to become a classroom teacher. She spoke recently about the YWCA honor and her work with the Free Press.

What were your thoughts when you learned that you were one of the Women of Distinction?

I was surprised and honored because I know so many of the women who have won this award are very distinguished and have done so much for the community. I was excited and honored to be a part of that group.

Tell me some of the most important things you’ve learned from your experiences at the Simpson Street Free Press.

Well one thing is that I realize how important it is to have people who support you that are not just parents or teachers in order to be successful. I learned that as a student, and I’ve carried that with me as a staff member who now works with students who are where I once was. So I really try my hardest to make sure that I’m encouraging the students that I work with to do their homework, stay on top of their schoolwork, and just make sure that they take full advantage of all the opportunities that they have to succeed.

Can you tell me more about your Gap according to Green columns?

That was a column I wrote starting my junior year in high school going all the way through my senior year. I just basically covered the achievement gap in Madison from the students’ perspective. At that time the achievement gap was known about but it wasn’t as widely covered as it is now. A lot of the time adults talk about the achievement gap and the effects of it, but you never get to really hear how the students feel about it or how they feel like it’s affecting them. I did a lot of research and I combined that with personal experiences to create the columns that I wrote.

What were some of the things you wrote about in particular?

I talked about the lack of teacher expectations in the Madison school that I went to and how I felt like that had a really huge role in the way students of color achieve, and the way they see themselves as achievers. I also talked about making sure students know that they need to be advocates for themselves when it comes to their grades and making sure that they are aware of how being an advocate for yourself will affect you later on in positive ways.

How has writing and teaching younger students the importance of writing empowered you?

It has empowered me because I am excited to be able to give back to students who really need the help and really need guidance. I know that I was in that place once and I know how much it really meant to me and how important it was for me to be able to come to Simpson Street and work with the adult editors. Andrea Gilmore, who was the managing editor at the time when I was a student, was a big help for me personally so I really just try to give back to those students and make sure that I can help them succeed the way that I was helped as well.

How is the Simpson Street Free Press helping to close the achievement gap in Dane County?

I believe that we’re helping to bridge the achievement gap because we are creating a group of students who are not only excited about education, but they’re also role models. They know that school is important; they take that and they carry it with them and that is just a culture that is spreading. It’s very evident in talking to our students and meeting them that they value what they’re getting here and they can see the big picture later down the line of what they need to do in order to be successful. We teach them self-academic confidence and that is something that’s very important in the fight to bridge these gaps.

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