Tim Whitaker’s Mighty Writers Program Empowers Philly Kids to Raise Their Voices

The Wynnewood resident and former editor of Philadelphia Weekly puts his writing experience to good use through a three-year old initiative that’s taking the city by storm.

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Whitaker characterizes his Mighty Writers as a “mix of kids,” though 90 percent are black. “There’s been great parent involvement, and word-of-mouth,” he says, adding that he hopes to attract children from North and West Philadelphia in the near future. “Where we are now is the perfect prototype. You need a safe, accessible neighborhood. You need a certain amount of space and a good layout.”

And a staff who will gladly roll up their sleeves. “I’ve gotten good with the power drill,” says development director Maggie Leyman, who also crafts grant proposals.

The Citizens Bank, Claneil, Knight, Lenfest, and Fels foundations have all given to Mighty Writers, and volunteers pick up where the money leaves off. Under program director Rachel Loeper, an army of high-school interns, grad students, retirees and the out-of-work keeps the Mighty Writers furnace stoked. There’s no hint of bureaucracy here—just enthusiasm and a sense of forward motion. “It’s all about inspiring kids to write,” says Whitaker.

Born in Philadelphia, Tim Whitaker is a Villanova University graduate. He taught grade school, then sold advertising for the Germantown Courier before shifting to the weekly’s editorial side.

A stint with an Allentown monthly preceded two years at the helm of Pittsburgh magazine in the early 1980s. Then it was back to Philadelphia for freelance work from the Inquirer’s Sunday magazine. His profile of radio personality Joey Reynolds led to a head-writing gig on the DJ’s talk show for an NBC station in New York, where Whitaker wrote copy at celebrity-studded Rockefeller Center.

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