5 Questions: Nichole Coates, WITS Program Associate

Meet Nichole Coates, SAL’s brand new WITS Program Associate! Passionate about supporting the talents, aspirations and abilities of youth from all backgrounds, she has spent the last several years teaching literacy, leadership and social emotional learning to youth in communities from Wisconsin to White Center.

We asked Nichole five questions about her new role with WITS, how English classes influenced her as a child, and what’s on her nightstand:

1. Tell us a little about your pre-SAL career.

I get my energy from knowing that the work that I’m doing is making a strong community impact, so I’ve always gravitated towards programs that nurture the passions and talents of youth of all backgrounds. I love watching kids and communities grow, and I’m always blown away by the authenticity, vulnerability, bravery, compassion, spontaneity and inventiveness that kids bring to the table.

A lot of my experience involves teaching in out-of-school programs, which has ranged from hosting race and social justice dialogue circles after school, leading theater workshops with elementary schoolers, running tutoring programs, hosting writing workshops, the whole gamut. I’ve also worked with organizations to help foster more equitable workplaces and culturally-responsive programming. It’s such a gift to watch young people claim their worth and I feel lucky to be able to be a part of that process in whatever way I can.

2. What is your new role with us? What about it is most exciting to you? 

I’ve been brought on to assist with all things WITS. I was absolutely thrilled to find a program that so seamlessly joins my some of my greatest passions – youth, community and literature. It’s hard to choose a single thing to be excited about, because I’m excited about everything: working with the writers, preparing for events, putting together the anthology of youths’ works, everything!

3. What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not here at SAL?

Mostly cuddling with my dog, but if I’m not doing that, you might find me going to various shows across town, collaging, taking leisurely strolls through the park, and of course, reading.

4. How did writing or English classes affect you as a child?

Creative writing was a crucial part to my development as a young person. Growing up mixed race in the Midwest, writing provided me with one of the first spaces where I felt that I could give shape to my identity in a way that felt authentic and meaningful to me. Language is such an powerful tool for affirming one’s identity and experiences, which is why I’m excited that WITS shares that tool with such a broad audience.

5. What are you reading right now? What’s on your nightstand?

I’ve recently finished up reading an anthology of Gloria Anzaldúa’s work and am preparing myself to dive into Borderlands/La Frontera.

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