Jefferson Award Winner Coaches Student WritersBy Allen Martin

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) When Kent Wright retired ten years ago, he wanted to start volunteering. But he wasn’t quite sure where. A decade later, this week’s Jefferson Award winner knows that helping students with their writing skills has been the perfect fit.

Kent Wright helps students write.

“From the very beginning actually I completely liked it,” he recalled. “I loved it.”

For ten years, Wright has been a volunteer with the East Bay’s Writer Coach Connection, a non-profit dating back to 2001. Coaches work one-on-one with middle and high school students twelve times a year, for a half hour each time.

But it’s not entirely about writing.

“It’s about thinking,” Wright explained. “It’s about ideas. It’s about considering other viewpoints. It’s about listening oftentimes, and just encouraging somebody to try out their thinking – try out their writing.”

Some of the 150 students Wright has coached over the years have been challenging.

“I used to hate literature,” said Richmond High School Junior Alexsander Rojas. “(Wright” has me think of an idea and then he has me draw from it and play with it so I can go deeper into what I want to portray.”

Wright is one of about 500 volunteers currently working in 11 schools helping students, as well as teachers like Richmond High School English teacher Rich Seeber.

“The coaches really give me a chance to move further with the students than I’m able to do in the same time frame on my own,” Seeber said.

In addition to coaching, Wright has been a board member, fund raiser, and has set up a young author contest for the non-profit.

But for him, it’s the connection with students that means the most, even if they’re hard to get through to, like one of his first:

“Finally one day I said ‘What is going on, you know? You seem like you’re sleepy. Are you sleepy? Is it me? We can get you another coach.’ He said, ‘No, the police were on my street last night.'”

After Wright encouraged the student to write about the source of that problem, neighborhood gangs, the student wrote Wright a thank-you note at the end of the year.

“It ended up with him saying, ‘You’re the first adult that I’ve ever been able to trust,'” Wright said.

He’s been coming back to coach ever since.

“Seeing that spark where they take off on their own is amazing!” he said.

So for inspiring students to write, think, and aspire to greater things, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kent Wright.