“Stay calm and whisper / I am worthy, I am enough, I am me” – “Give Yourself Grace,” Alenell
Under the guidance of Recreation Coordinator Francina Smith, a group of five middle school and high school students in Saratoga’s afterschool rec program had the opportunity to explore poetry as a form of self-expression. To celebrate Poetry Month in April 2022, these students studied famous poets, including Nikki Giovanni and Ntozake Shange, and created beautiful poems of their own. Although such sophisticated poets may seem difficult for young students to understand, Smith knew the students would appreciate and enjoy their work.
“While some may think that these poets were far beyond their capacity, I knew otherwise,” Smith explained. “Each poet helped us to discover and explore an innocent curiosity of self that helped us all to not only identify areas of growth, but also acknowledge places we wish to one day climb to.”
This study and exploration of poetry culminated in a booklet entitled “I Am All I Am.” This project, according to Smith, “gives space and room for us to tell the universe exactly who we intend to be.” The booklet contains two different sections: “I Am” poems by every student, and a group of “Inspiration Poems” from one student, Alenell.
These “I Am” poems provided students with the space to “dig deep in acknowledging who they are and who they intend to be in this world,” Smith wrote in an introductory statement. The students’ writing ranged from playful self-identification to honest commentary on their negative self-perceptions.
“I am independent / I am over-competitive / I am nice,” wrote one student, Dayvion.
Meanwhile, another student, Kamya, wrote: “I am misunderstood / I tend to stay around bad company / I am always putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Alenell’s section of “Inspiration Poems” provides readers with motivational messages informed by her own experiences with race, self-discovery, and self-worth.
“Descended from kings and queens / the face of the future / I am black and proud,” Alenell wrote. “But never forget your roots / transforms your pain into strength / you’re equipped with an intuition that guides.”
Self-expression is particularly important for youth development, helping children discover self-confidence, effective communication skills, and a unique artistic voice. With the thoughtful guidance of Smith, these students learned about the intersection of writing and identity through the study and practice of poetry.
We encourage you to flip through the Photo Carousel to read some of the students’ work.