About the Festival

Each year, Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, sponsors the YSU English Festival. This is a unique annual program reaching out to approximately 3,000 junior and senior high school students from Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties in Ohio, and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, their teachers and parents, area librarians, and other members of the community who are interested in promoting and cultivating reading and writing.

Though the English Festival occurs in the spring, its effects are felt throughout the year. Each fall nearly 200 middle and high schools in the greater Youngstown area receive invitations to bring students to the YSU English Festival. To attend, students must read seven books, and teachers monitor their reading progress throughout the year.

As the Festival approaches, several hundred students will write essays for the Candace Gay Memorial Essay Contest. Others will prepare original artwork for the Festival Art Contest. Thousands of students will read the seven books for their age group. Meanwhile, the teachers prepare for their jobs as writing judges or session leaders.

The week before the Festival, over 200 teachers, parents, and librarians will come to campus to receive final Festival materials and to be trained in holistic and analytic trait methods for assessing writing (used to judge students’ writing efforts) or to be oriented to their jobs as session leaders or monitors, and then Festival week will begin.

The YSU English Festival is so large that it takes three days to complete. Separate groups of nearly 1,000 students (10th–12th graders on one day, 7th–9th graders on two others) attend on each day, filling every available room in the University’s student center and several campus auditoriums. They will listen to a noted author or authors of some of the books they have read, write impromptu essays, collaborate on workshop activities, attend dramatic or artistic performances, participate in “insight” book discussions, and try their skills at language games and “not-so-trivial pursuit” competitions.


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