Westside Future Fund

Summit Spotlight: Melissa Swindell, Executive Director of The Wren’s Nest

Melissa answered questions about how The Wren’s Nest plans to support the Westside community and how she sees the Summit helping her achieve her goals. Questions like:

  • What was your biggest takeaway from the Summit?
  • What is your affiliation with the Historic Westside of Atlanta?
  • Why is the revitalization of the Westside important to you?
  • What are you doing for the Historic Westside, and what is your role in improving life for residents on the Westside? How do you feel the Summits can help you in your role?
  • What is your hope for the Historic Westside?

Constellations podcast recently featured Executive Directory Melissa Swindell. During this podcast Melissa shares her story of listening to the Brer Rabbit stories as a little girl, being told by Akbar Imhotep at the Wren’s Nest. During the interview, Melissa shares her insights into the history of Joel Chandler Harris and the Wren’s Nest. She showcases the rich background and legacy of Joel and his house at 1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.

Click Here to listen to her interview

We were featured in the Living section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Written by Anya Martin and photos by Jenni Girtman, the article starts off with:

When storyteller Akbar Imhotep walked down Gordon Street (now Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard) in the late 1970s, one house, mustard-hued with a green gabled roof and big latticed porch, didn’t seem to belong in the West End neighborhood. “There were big bushes on both sides of the driveway that made it seem forbidden…

Click Here to continue reading

Written for the Atlanta Writers Club

by Ralph Ellis

“I don’t really remember much about my mom.” That’s the beginning of Amien Hicks’ short story – and I think it’s a grabber. Amien is a student at KIPP STRIVE Academy in Atlanta. I was his mentor last spring in a writing program called Scribes.

Fourteen middle school students wrote short pieces of historical fiction on inventors of color, and Amien was assigned George Washington Carver. He started with Carver’s childhood, when slave raiders stole his mother, and moved through his struggles to obtain an education. Carver overcame racism at every step to become an inventor, college professor, and the most famous African-American of his time. Other Scribes wrote about Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic signal, and Charles Drew, who pioneered methods for storing blood plasma for transfusion.

This was the fifth student I’ve mentored, and every time has been an eye opener. Not all the stories are historical fiction. With an agriculture theme, my Scribe wrote about a budding peach tree that blossomed despite being bullied by other trees. When the subject was Atlanta institutions, my student wrote about a CNN reporter who turns back an alien attack on New York City. Yes, their imaginations know no limits.

The Wren’s Nest, the Joel Chandler Harris residence that’s now a museum in West End Atlanta, created and sponsors the Scribes program. Harris, author of the Uncle Remus tales, lived in the Queen Anne style home until his death in 1908.

The mentoring program pairs writing professionals, or adults who simply love to write, with middle school students. The mentor spends around an hour a week for a dozen weeks working with the student in a writing lab at KIPP STRIVE Academy or Brown Middle School – both Atlanta public schools in West End. Mentors have been teachers, journalists, college students majoring in English or journalism, social media managers for corporations and public broadcast writers.

How deeply involved does a mentor become? That depends on the student. Kalin Thomas, the program director, provides daily goals for each session, so nobody goes off track. My last Scribe is a confident writer, so mainly I helped with the online research and made minor grammar fixes. Some of my other charges procrastinated, tried to play computer games or agonized over every phrase. Sound familiar? Mentors see a lot of themselves in these young writers.

A few months after my mentoring duties ended, I saw Amien again at the Decatur Book Festival. The Scribes’ stories had been bound together into a softcover book titled “Bright Ideas,” and a launch party was held in a hotel ballroom. The Scribes sat down at a long table and their parents and friends lined up to get books autographed. These middle school students had achieved something special. They were published authors. It was a proud moment for the Scribes – and for me. Being a mentor is not without sacrifice, and not every student is easy. But every session has been gratifying. The Wren’s Nest always needs mentors, so if you’re interested, contact Kalin Thomas here. If you’d like to hear more about my experiences, send a message to rvance52@hotmail.com.

Our Friend Jane Yudelson

Our dear friend Jane Yudelson passed away on May 29th. Jane and her husband of nearly 67 years, Harold, have been long time friends of ours here at the Wren’s Nest. Harold served on the Board for many years and was our Board Chair for a time. Jane and Harold met in an art history class at the University of Pennsylvania. Jane not only helped Harold pass the class, but became the love of his life. They had three children together, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Jane was an accomplished artist with her own gallery in Buckhead. We will miss her elegant and joyful presence.

The Wren’s Nest’s very own Mary Claire Kelly did something great. Not that we’re surprised or anything. Anyone who’s apart of the Wren’s Nest Team, the young scribes, their mentors, Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, Mr. Harris, they never fail to impress us around here.

One of our Brown Middle School mentors had an article featured on WABE 90.1FM, Atlanta’s NPR News Station. Can someone say complete awesomeness?

Mary-Claire-Kelly

Kelly’s article was featured as a part of WABE’s Beautiful City series, where journalists are showcasing special places to go in Atlanta for those of us who love Atlanta too much and just don’t want to leave, or simply for those who have been in Atlanta for a while and have yet to get “culturally acquainted”  (Side note: If you’re looking to get culturally acquainted, right here at the Wren’s Nest is a perfect place to start!)

Anyway Let’s clap it up for Mary Claire Kelley. She highlighted the Lake Claire Community Land Trust. Pretty interesting if I do say so myself!

Go ahead and check it out. Here’s the link to view the pictures, read the article, and listen to the podcast. Great Job Mary Claire Kelly! http://bit.ly/1FD9EfF

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