Fundraising under way to continue YSU English Fest

By Sean Barron


Angela Messenger fondly remembers her excitement when her eighth-grade Volney Rogers Junior High School teacher told her class about a special event at Youngstown State University.

“I knew when I was in eighth grade I wanted to do something in the writing field, particularly in editing,” Messenger said, referring to her introduction in the early 1990s to the university’s annual English Festival. “It was a no-brainer for me to do it.”

First, though, she had to read seven books in five months to prepare. As an avid reader, however, Messenger was more than up to the challenge, she recalled.

It’s safe to say that for two decades, Messenger has stayed on script: She went on to teach composition courses at YSU and Kent State University at Trumbull, then become coordinator of YSU’s Writing Center and a festival committee member.

She also was one of several festival participants who spoke during Wednesday’s fundraising campaign in YSU’s Kilcawley Center at which event organizers hope to raise $100,000 by this spring or summer to keep the 35-year annual spring festival going.

The effort has raised nearly $52,500, noted Ron Cole, director of university communications.

The three-day festival, which began in 1979, attracts an estimated 3,000 middle- and high-school students each year to discuss books, meet authors and take part in essay, poetry and other writing competitions.

“The English Festival is truly a celebration of reading and writing that has touched the lives of countless young people across the region for more than three decades,” said Nancy Beeghly, a festival advisory-board member and a former English teacher.

Calling herself “a voracious reader,” Jennifer Walker said the yearly gathering also broadened her world.

“Without the English Festival, I might not have been exposed to cultures different than mine,” said Walker, language-arts supervisor for the Mahoning County Educational Service Center and a former East High School teacher who was named Ohio Teacher of the Year.

The festival also deepened her desire to instill in her students a love of and appreciation for reading, Walker added.

Taking part in the event left an indelible mark on Carlee Tressel, who recalled having met several authors, and is writing works for young adults.

“I gained the confidence that writing is something worth doing,” said Tressel, who is the daughter of Jim Tressel, former YSU and Ohio State University head football coach.

Others who made remarks asking for financial contributions were Gary Salvner and Jeff Buchanan, festival co-chairmen; Bege Bowers, a retired YSU associate provost and English professor; and Scott Schulick, a YSU trustee.

This year’s English Festival is set for April 17-19 at YSU.

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