Our first student, Solie Brosi, explained how your support helped bring COMPAS Teaching Artist and spoken word poet Frank Sentwali to her classroom. “It was integral having Frank come in and be a mentor who was also a friend. He has a positive energy that was so fun to be around!”
Solie and her classmates worked with Frank to determine what they each wanted to write about, and create drafts of their poems. “Frank would read us his poetry, and it would be about serious stuff. He created a space where we would talk about difficult things.”
Over the course of the residency, Solie’s poem began to take shape. Solie drew on conversations with her mom to write a poem called “An Open Letter to Young Girls”. She explained, “When I was younger, I had trouble making friends and feeling confident. I had good conversations with my mom about ways to feel more confident and I used some of those conversations to influence this poem.”
Solie started out:
“Dear young girl,
I was in your shoes just a few years ago.
I felt lost because as soon as I became aware of society
I lost part of my innocence.
I started to care more about my appearance
And it was possibly the hardest time of my life so far.
So I want to try to help you.
Here is my ‘wisdom’.”
When she was finished, the poem was three pages long! But Frank told her that was perfectly okay. Now came the hard part – learning to perform the piece in front of her class. Frank worked with each person to practice their poem until they felt confident and at ease in front of the class. Students who rarely stepped into the spotlight embraced the opportunity to shine.
Before Solie knew it, her time with Frank was done, but she kept a copy of her poem and carried what she had learned into the 9th grade. Then one day Solie and her parents got a call from someone at the COMPAS office – Solie’s poem had been selected to be published in the COMPAS Anthology of Student Writing!
Solie could hardly believe it. She was going to be a published author! She was also invited to read her poem at the anthology reading and celebration. When she stepped up to the mic, she expected to feel butterflies – but instead she felt nothing but confidence. Frank has prepared her well, and she knew this was her time to share her wisdom with the students coming after her.
Solie read through the poem, and got to the final lines:
“Dear young girl, my words of advice to you are:
1. There are people that won’t like you. That’s normal and ok.
2. Don’t care about what others think of you. If you like you, that’s all that matters.
3. You will make stupid decisions. That ok, it’s part of living.
4. You will change and allow yourself to do so.
5. Stand your ground, kid.
You’re stronger than you think.”
You can help students like Solie find the space and the confidence to find their voice. “This opportunity helped me become the person I am today;” Solie said. She couldn’t have done that without support from donors like you. Make a gift today.