For almost two years, SideWalk Chalk has been working with South Carolina students in Charleston County schools to help cultivate creativity among students with a focus on writing. With four books published, accomplished artists/musicians/dancers and other creative types lined up to help out, SideWalk Chalk is taking a unique approach to reaching out to kids who otherwise might not have access to positive outlets to expressing their thought, emotions, and creativity. Chad sat down with founder and co-director John Caspian and talked to him about the beginnings and the future of SideWalk.

LoveinStereo: How did SideWalk Chalk get started?

John Caspian: I was in a book club with 3 other people and had helped convince one of my friends to quit their job and start selling health food. They asked me what I always wanted to do and I remembered reading about the decline of grades in poorer schools in Charleston County. I wanted to do a writing program, similar to 826 Valencia, where we go into the schools and battle illiteracy by focusing on writing. My friends told me if I was serious, they would help. So I turned in my two weeks notice to my two jobs and we started working on a plan.

We started off with one school, Sanders Clyde Elementary, where teachers would bring students to us. From there we realized the students and teachers needed help during school hours,so the next week we started going in once a week with the four people for one hour.

Now, we are in seven schools, have 50 volunteers and teachers are seeking us out. It’s amazing to see a non-profit grow even in a recession.

LIS: What are some of the struggles you’ve had to face through the years?

JC: We’ve been very lucky to not run into any major road blocks The biggest would have to be our financial situation, but that’s true for pretty much everybody. The biggest letdown is when you have some children who just don’t want to write.

LIS: What was your “AHA!” moment with SideWalk Chalk – the moment you knew you were on the right track?

JC: Last year at the end of the first semester, we were dealing with a 4th grader who had been suspended 10 times and was very close to being expelled. We were working with the class to published a group book and one day the homework assignment was to write about their shoes. He goes home, writes his story, has his grandmother type it up and even had some pictures he drew to go with it. The story was about how his shoes talked to him throughout the day and would complain if they were tied to tight.

The next day the principal calls and tell me that he actually DID THE HOMEWORK! When the student was asked why he completed the work, he said that “he learned that he liked to write.” Everyday he would write a new story that his grandmother would type up and would bring it into class. By the end of the year, the walls were filled with his stories.

LIS: Why do you think your program has been successful?

JC: Our volunteers can show the students specialized attention that one teacher may not be able to in a class of 20 or so students. The volunteer and the the student create relationships that both parties are invested in. The students know their names and are excited to see them.

LIS: How can the Love in Stereo get more involved?

JC: Mainly by getting the message out via social networking and word of mouth. Many of volunteers come from someone else talking about it and spreading the word.

LIS: Where do you see SideWalk Chalk in the future?

JC: Being able to offer our free service to every school in the Charleston area. Find another struggling city in America and start another branch. Hopefully we’ll be able to plant all around America.

LIS: Anything else you want to add?

JC: Everyone’s voice matters and it can be heard. Once student’s begin to be heard, and they believe what they are writing, they start to take pride in what and how they communicate.

You can check out SideWalk Chalk at:
www.sidewalkchalk.us
Facebook: facebook.com/charlestonchalk
Twitter: @charlestonchalk

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9 Comments


  1. Brad Montague:

    A cool addition to the story – shortly after doing this interview Chad actually signed up to volunteer with SideWalk Chalk! Today is his first day. Wish him well!

    12:49 pm on February 16th, 2010
  2. Julie:

    love to see people make personal sacrifices to help others. that’s what this life is about!

    4:18 pm on February 16th, 2010
  3. Lisa:

    Cool interview–we need more John Caspians in this world.

    4:55 pm on February 16th, 2010
  4. Julia:

    “Everyone’s voice matters and it can be heard. Once students begin to be heard, and they believe what they are writing, they start to take pride in what and how they communicate.”

    So powerful. I struggle with being frustrated with the “idk”s and the “lol”s in writing when there are children out there who can’t even communicate through writing. Way to take a passion and make it a reality, John, not only for you, but for dozens of children in Charleston.

    5:43 am on February 17th, 2010
  5. Barbara F. backer:

    As a volunteer with Sidewalk Chalk, I can see the children’s writing and creativity improving from week to week. As a former classroom teacher, I know the frustration of not having enough time to work with each child individually. Sidewalk Chalk volunteers do have the time and opportunity to work with very small groups or even one student at a time. We build friendships with the children; we are always greeted with big smiles. Sometimes the students cheer when a Chalk volunteer walks into their classroom.

    Classroom teachers let us know weekly which language arts skills to spotlight with each small group of students. Clearly, we are guiding the students through their curriculum, but doing it in a way that cannot be done by *one* adult, alone.

    In honesty, I must say that *I* receive as many rewards as the children. Their enthusiasm encourages me to take my own writing more seriously; their unconditional acceptance brightens any darkness in the day.

    And, Chad, you were awesome. The students accepted you and bonded with you immediately. I hope you’ll be with us again next week!

    10:06 pm on February 17th, 2010
  6. Brad:

    That’s awesome Barbara! Thanks for sharing. Really excited about what’s happening there.

    Take care of Chad for us!

    5:09 pm on February 18th, 2010
  7. RabotaVamy:

    Свой бизнес, стабильная работа, высокий доход Заработок в интернете Распространение ссылок и обьявлений

    8:18 am on April 28th, 2012
  8. Marubionida:

    И главным образом он изобрел линейку, о которой мы скажем потом; она правильно получила и название «линейка», не потому, что была той деревянной линейкой (regula), при помощи которой мы соразмеряем величину струн и звук, а потому, что такого рода точное надежное наблюдение есть некое верное правило (regula), не обманывающее никаким сомнительным суждением ни одного исследователя.

    12:05 pm on April 28th, 2016
  9. Bomohoind:

    Будущей маме важно знать, что подбор больницы нужно затевать с задачи о плановой мойке. А цепочка анализов для беременных производят безвозмездно при наличии справки от врача. Полезная и актуальная информация позволит сэкономить на обследовании и родах.

    Не ждите, что в женской больнице все расскажут. Удивите доктора вопросом о возможностях вашего районного перинатального центра. Успешная беременность и роды – заслуга будущей мамы, которая знает собственные полномочия.
    постельное белье для первой брачной ночи

    3:34 pm on September 14th, 2017

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