SWAC students express themselves at Woodstock poetry slam
Ian Keteku expressed himself all week as he looked to inspire SWAC students to do the same. (Chris Funston/ Sentinel-Review)
The sound of snapping fingers fills the room. There are only feelings of acceptance and commitment.
The commitment comes from each individual who spoke their true emotions while the acceptance came from those listening during the School-Within-a-College's poetry slam on Friday.
Students of the program welcomed award-winning poet Ian Keteku to Woodstock last week as he worked with them to address social issues, such as inclusion, social justice and mental health. The week-long visit culminated in Friday's poetry slam, where students were given the stage to express themselves through poems they had worked on throughout the week.
While the School-Within-a-College program is designed for disengaged, underachieving students, you would never know by the amount of effort and trust each one of them put forward during their presentations.
“Sometimes youth are going through challenges and need an outlet to express it. Poetry is the perfect way to express one's heart and mind,” explained Keteku.
While some poems were humorous, others were heartfelt and even heartbreaking.
Many of the students in School-Within-a-College described themselves as anxious and shy. If you were to witness each of them present their poems, it would be hard to believe.
Keteku believes that every individual comes with the skill to express themselves; sometimes all they need is a push.
“I told them they have the space and we will hear you. Sometimes that's enough to get someone to share, speak and be vulnerable in front of others,” said Keteku. “The idea is to instil in them that their voice matters and what they have to say is of importance.”
“Everyone in the class has shared something and we're all anxious and pressed. We all have our own problems and Ian has really pushed us to get passed it. It's pretty amazing because even the most unlikely person has found it within themselves to share their poetry,” student Sam Hooper said.
Raquel Gonzalez, 18, joined the program in September with the goal of completing her high school credits while gaining some experience through the college courses offered, but she says School-Within-a-College has offered her much more. She noticed a change in herself, which she credits Keteku for helping her come out of her comfort zone. While she has always written poetry, the poetry slam gave her an outlet to express herself and shed her fear of public speaking with the class watching.
“Ian has been a lot of help. His attitude has a lot to offer. He's really out there and loves getting people out of their shell,” said Gonzalez.
Going into SWAC, Chloe Verbrugge, 18, had never attended high school, as she had only been taught in alternative-education programs. In her experience, whenever she has mentioned alt-ed programs to people they often think that it would be kids who are up to no good, but she says School-Within-a-College is far beyond that.
“There's not a single trouble maker in this class. It tops all the programs I've been in,” she explained.
Hooper, 17, admitted he struggled to go to high school every day, but since joining School-Within-a-College this fall, he always wants to be in class.
“The environment is totally different. The program has blown my mind,” he said.
Hooper looks to pursue film or photography in the future. With that in mind, he documented the week through photographs and, with the help of Keteku, provided the cinematography for a video of a collaborative poem the class wrote.