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Students Publish Creative Work with CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth

To all hope is near
We all have fear
But we lift up not caring who sees
Because there is light beyond the trees
In times of despair
We take our time and we try to repair
What mine, we’re all gonna be just fine
We have power and we can succeed
We won’t get on our knees in defeat
It is guaranteed
That this is able to be beat

City School 7th grade student Tanyia’s published poem reflects the feelings of many students during the COVID pandemic. And it illustrates the wisdom and creativity of students in an innovative writing program.

The Impact Hub in Station North is buzzing. Students are huddled around tables, engaged in lively discussions about publishing timelines, literary submissions, editorial decisions, and writers workshops. It’s another weekly City Schools student-led meeting of the CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth editorial board. 

Founded in 2013 by two City Schools teachers, CHARM is a nonprofit that works with student creative writers of all ages to craft and publish their work. What began as an annual anthology has grown into a multifaceted organization that has published more than 1,000 City Schools students’ stories, poems and narratives in 15 print publications and three online collections - with many more on the way, all guided by City Schools students. In addition to the annual anthology, CHARM manages the new Charm Report news site, hosts workshops for young writers, distributes newsletters, and compiles a poetry collection from Baltimore’s Youth Poet Laureate. And the board has expanded to include 20 students in paid positions. 

The thinking behind CHARM is as simple as it is powerful. “It all goes back to our vision: kids’ voices matter. They matter in our classrooms and schools and they matter across our society,” said Whitney Birenbaum, CHARM founder, Executive Director, and former City Schools educator. “Our young people in Baltimore have incredible, important things to say. CHARM exists to support their writing but also to create these meaningful places to amplify their voices.” 

At CHARM, those meaningful places continue to expand. Recently, CHARM published its first online collections of student writing — one series, “This is Not a Snow Day,” includes student reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic, and another “Poems for Black Lives Matter at School” features student reflections on the BLM movement. CHARM recently held a series of workshops for young writers, covering topics like flash fiction and cover art. And they offer subscription opportunities and newsletters: “Class Gems” delivers free, classroom ready poems and prompts to support teachers, and a paid monthly subscription gives recipients student poems and written work. 

Student writers’ inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes all they need is a push, a prompt, or an invitation. Thanks to CHARM, those prompts help talented City Schools students grow as writers, build confidence, and obtain significant publishing and editing experience in the process. 

CHARM’s editors are now reviewing submissions for their next anthology titled CHARM: Love. Submissions are still open until 2/28! 

As Saniya, a recent student editor and 11th grader at Baltimore City College puts it  "I enjoy reading young people's work because it’s amazing to see so many young people speaking out. I look forward to writing some things for CHARM. I also look forward to seeing how CHARM can make a difference in Baltimore."

The experience is best described in the opening line of sixth grade student Lyriq’s poem, “My Black Family:”

You will write us down in history
For our greatness.

To learn more about CHARM and to read the powerful, beautiful writing of City Schools students, visit


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