Spotlight: Big ClassWriting program helps kids become published authorsDoug Keller wants the children of New Orleans to be heard. Through dialogue and the written word, students ages 6 to 18 get that chance through Big Class, the non-profit that Keller oversees as executive director. “Words are power,” says Keller, who has spent the last 10 years working to cultivate the writing voices of kids who otherwise might not have exposure to creative writing. Big Class started as a project with 43 students at Lincoln Elementary School in Marrero and, with the help of its many volunteers, has expanded to serve more than 3,500 children since 2010. In the 2015-2016 school year alone, the participants contributed to a total of 34 printed, bound publications. Keller credits the students with organization’s success, saying they learn through writing that their words have meaning and that they have stories to tell. Writing isn’t a hobby, rather it is a catalyst for change, he says. And it can be fun, too. Keller notes that the projects range from writing about aliens to thoughtful social justice pieces. In Nola Treasure, the students “make treasure maps to different places that are meaningful to us throughout the city,” he explains. In an effort to reach more fledging writers, Big Class plans to open a new Youth Writing Center in the 7th Ward later this year, allowing the organization to add new programs and double the number of students it serves. The nonprofit also will undergo a name change to 826 New Orleans, as it becomes one of eight chapters affiliated with 826 National, an award-winning, nonprofit network of writing programs. The center will partner with the Haunting Supply Co., which will serve as its storefront of sorts – a place where students can sign up for classes and the public can purchase ghostly supplies. The organization will continue to work with schools, libraries and other community organizations to reach as many potential writers as possible. With lots of changes on the horizon, Big Class is poised to enter the Big Time.Check out Big Class's It's LIT , a youth-designed and built youth writing center and food truck.For more information, visit bigclass.org. Claire Davenport is an intern at Nola Family Magazine.