“I’m freaking out!” said Antonio* as we headed into the hallway to practice his poem for Dearborn’s first Poetry Slam.
I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and eyed him curiously. “Antonio, can I tell you a secret?” I asked. He nodded, unsure of what my response might be. “You inspire me.”
I developed a friendship with Antonio when he started attending City Year’s extended day program – his maturity and love of poetry drew me in immediately. During one of our after school chats I learned that Antonio became interested in poetry in the third grade after being introduced to Langston Hughes. It was this year that he wrote an original poem to address the topic of bullying. Three years later, as the youngest student to perform and the only student to represent his grade, Antonio chose to read this poem at the Dearborn Poetry Slam and took second place, surpassing nearly all of his eighth grade competitors.
I could not be more proud of him. While I do not doubt his potential for success, I am grateful that my team was able to provide him with a venue to really shine. I am also grateful that working with City Year gave me to opportunity to meet this bright-eyed sixth grader who not only shares my love of poetry, but also encourages me to face my own fears.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the student.