By Jalen Shelvin, Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the AT&T team at Broadmoor High School. 

For some, April 1st is a day of falsified lies and pranks that serves as an overall dosage of laughter for the day. For most in 2018, it also served as Easter Sunday or resurrection day. For me, it served as the beginning of National Poetry Month.

I began writing poetry at the age of 11 years old, at a time where I lacked direction but had plenty of stories to tell. My English teacher at the time, Amanda Shackelford, gave me an outlet that benefited me for the rest of my life. Through that outlet, I shared the stage with many great poets and spoken word artists and was also fortunate enough to meet Baton Rouge’s Mayor-President Sharon, Weston Broome. Poetry not only helped shaped my life, but it has given me a way of bridging a gap between me and the students I work with every single day. With poetry, they’re able to express their own suppressed emotions in a way that captivates everyone involved and see the fruits of their labor blossom.

For National Poetry Month, I have a week planned for my students that I believe they’ll enjoy. The first day of their week will be devoted to the study of past and present poets who were extraordinary in the field. Many people don’t know how involved the youth is in the shape of today’s spoken word. The first day will serve as an introduction to programs like Brave New Voices and CUPSI, which features artists close to their age. The next day will be a mini-workshop that I’ll lead, then I’ll give them a topic to write on. The following Friday will be when they share their poetry with the rest of the class. Ideally, everyone would participate but from personal experience, I know how delicate poetry can be so I’ll open that space to only those who feel comfortable enough to share.

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