Our Story

Widely recognized as one of the nation’s premiere writers-in-the-schools programs, InsideOut has earned many accolades, from a feature on PBS NewsHour to a performance on the stage of the Kennedy Center.

In recognition of our ability to foster and empower authentic youth voice, the White House awarded InsideOut the highest honor in youth arts programming, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented by Michelle Obama in 2009.

InsideOut received a tremendous vote of confidence in our program in 2024 when we were awarded a $2 million gift through philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving Open Call.

InsideOut Literary Arts Detroit - Michelle Obama presents Dr. Terry Blackhawk with the Coming Up Taller Award for excellence in after-school programming in 2007.
young man at microphone reading poetry

Our Goal

InsideOut’s primary goal – to transform lives through the written and spoken word – had a profound effect on our founder, Dr. Terry Blackhawk (above left). A Detroit Public Schools teacher, Dr. Blackhawk witnessed firsthand the magic of having a writer-in-residence in her own classroom at Mumford High School.

The experience of writing alongside her students fundamentally changed her life: “I thought, ‘If I’m asking them to do this, I should have the same experience myself.’ I fell in love with it. I became a poet.”

With initial seed funding from Bob Shaye and the Four Friends Foundation, InsideOut was founded in 1995. The name InsideOut was chosen by Dr. Blackhawk’s students themselves. As one 10th grade student said,“ [When we write] we are bringing what is inside of us out into the world.”

As Detroit’s largest and oldest literary non-profit, InsideOut now serves more than 100 classrooms and community sites annually. Our professional writers continue to help students experiment with words and learn that each unique voice matters – that there is power in “bringing the inside out.”

Our Mission

Through creative writing, InsideOut inspires and equips young people to think critically, create bravely, and share their voices with the world.

Our Vision

Young people empowered to transform themselves and their communities.

Our Values



Youth Voice