Russell Atkins After School Fellowship

Named after famed Cleveland poet and musician, The Russell Atkins After School Poetry Fellowship is the flagship youth education program of Twelve Literary Arts. The Fellowship accepts 25 youth of color from across Northeast Ohio for a 7-month experience that is designed to develop youth as poets, scholars, classroom facilitators, and community leaders. Youth fellows between the ages of 14-19 learn about key writers, literary movements, styles of writing, writing techniques, and approaches to effective editing and workshopping. Monthly writing workshops are facilitated by special guest local writers, and graduate students of color from Cleveland State University’s NEOMFA program.

Acceptance Into the Fellowship

Youth are accepted into the Fellowship after completing an application form and an informal interview with a TLA staff member. Accepted youth under the age of 18 and parents/guardians must attend a 1.5 hour family orientation. Parents unable to attend the family orientation must contact the executive director or lead teaching artist.


The Fellowship is hosted onsite at TLA’s programming office on The Glenville Arts Campus (1484 E. 105th Street,Cleveland, 44106) three days per week every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm – 7:30pm. The Youth Fellowship program runs for 28 weeks from mid October – early June each year and is offered at no charge to students or their families thanks to the generous support of the Cleveland Foundation.


The 2021-22 Russell Atkins After School Fellowship is led by Russell Atkins Fellowship alumnae, Raja Belle Freeman. Twelve Literary Arts Executive Artistic Director Daniel Gray-Kontar provides program and financial oversight, ensures program goals are met, and promotes artistic vision, direction and excellence. Writing workshops are facilitated by special guest local writers, and poets and writers from abroad via Zoom, allowing the youth to develop their writing from a multitude of local literary artists

Food & Transportation

To ensure safe travel from school to the program site and from the program to home, transportation is provided at no cost to the youth and their families on an as needed basis. Food is also provided at no cost and is primarily purchased from neighborhood vendors.

Art + Activism = Artivism

Every Tuesday, Russell Atkins Fellows meet with members of the Hough Youth Advisory Board (also facilitated by Twelve Literary Arts) to share ideas about art and activism, co-design community empowerment efforts in the Hough and Glenville neighborhoods, and co-host local open mics. Russell Atkins youth fellows will support the Hough Youth Advisory Board to co-organize the Black Joy in Hough Arts Festival, September 9 – 11 2022.

For more information about this program, please contact lead teaching artist Raja Belle Freeman