Jhayne Anderson’s smile travels through the storefront space of WordPlay Cincy in Northside like a ray of light, welcoming each new student to the neighborhood nonprofit.
Today, Anderson, a WordPlay program assistant and a student at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, has a lot to smile about. But it wasn’t always that way.
She was just 14 years old when she first stepped through WordPlay’s doors as part of WordUp, a specialized program developed to encourage at-risk high-school students to get the support they needed to graduate high school and to find — and share — their voices with their communities.
Her first visits to WordUp were quiet ones. She listened to her peers from Aiken High School, but she wrote much more than she spoke. Slowly, surely, she took her place as a leader in the group, first sharing the words she’d written, then sharing more.
“Being with WordPlay, I’ve been able to let my creative side out,” says Anderson, now 18. “I have peace of mind.”
Anderson’s road out of high school wasn’t an easy one. She moved often and trouble at home led to trouble in school. Though she was a talented writer with strong academic skills, she sometimes had trouble controlling her frustration with a disjointed life.
At WordPlay, though, she could escape her worries and stresses, meet and work alongside people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and share her creativity freely.
WordPlay “helped me pull out my creativity and my love for writing,” she says.
Anderson’s involvement with WordPlay solidified when she helped create and performed as a key member of a production called “Enter Stage Write.” “One day, I felt like I lost all my creative juices,” she remembers. “A volunteer named Emma (Rosen) pulled me to the side, and she wrote for me while I said I how I felt. It became a great masterpiece; I even performed it.”
After Anderson took the stage in front of a standing room only crowd for “Enter Stage Write,” she knew her life would never be the same. She took the energy of that experience and held on tight to it. She forged an early graduation for herself from the Job Corps program when she was just 16, and she has been working mostly full-time ever since. She enrolled at Cincinnati State this summer and is studying to be a registered nurse. She hopes to take that degree and build upon it as she creates a life based on helping others.
It’s a lesson she teaches naturally as part of WordPlay. “WordPlay is something I always want to be a part of,” she says. “WordPlay is a place where you can be creative, you can be yourself without being judged. It’s a place where you can grow. WordPlay is full of people who won’t give up on you and are willing to help with all educational needs, and people who want to see you succeed in all parts of life.”
As she continues to pass along lessons she’s learned at WordPlay, she’s enjoying college classes and saving up for her own apartment. For WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter, Anderson is a shining example of what WordPlay is all about.
“I’m so proud of Jhayne and all that she has been able to accomplish,” Hunter says. “Having her here at WordPlay, giving back and still being an active participant in our programs for teens, illustrates the power of our community.”
You can help support the WordPlay community by liking the nonprofit on Facebook, by signing up to volunteer, or by making a donation to support our operations.
By Jhayne Anderson
I can succeed even with boundaries
Legends arise from your words
Erase — fear or doubt
WordPlay can help you make a way
You have a reason – You have a voice
WordPlay is here in each and every season
It’s time to embrace what you can become
It’s never too late for greatness
It’s never too late to be a legend
Who you are can set waves to inspire others
We all have views and shoes to fill
WordPlay can help open your mind and gain a strong will
Create art with your heart and skill
Legends, arise for from your words and let your words become one.