Big Class has its roots in a series of class projects from 2010, completed by first-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School in Marrero, Louisiana, and led by educators Doug Keller and Heather Muntzer. As word of the projects spread throughout New Orleans, several teachers reached out to Doug about the need for similar work in their classrooms that would privilege marginalized student voices and give under-resourced youth opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills through project-based learning and volunteer support.
In 2013, Big Class joined with Press Street, a community arts nonprofit, to open The Big Class Studio, a creative space offering writing programs after school to young people in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and began operating as a year-round organization with programming hosted at The Big Class Studio, in collaboration with other organizations, and in schools around the city.
In Fall 2014, Big Class entered into Chapter Development with 826 National, a network of youth writing nonprofits. This partnership with 826 allowed Big Class to join a national learning community while remaining a local organization responding to the unique needs of New Orleans youth. In January 2015, Big Class became a 501c3 nonprofit, and the organization now offers, at no cost to participants, a wide variety of innovative programs that support the writing skills of New Orleans youth.
As Big Class prepares to open a Youth Writing Center in the 7th Ward, our programming continues in collaboration with schools, libraries, and other organizations around the city. We can also occasionally be found on It’s Lit, our mobile youth writing center and sno-ball stand. Our programs are all project-based, volunteer-supported, and driven by student voice.