Writing with Latino Youth

The_Popular_Educator_Illustration_6_-_Holding_the_PenOne of the great things I was involved with this summer was a twice-weekly writing workshop with Latino youth in Indianapolis – middle schoolers through seniors in high school.

As part of their summer program, some of them were excited to be there.  Nervous, yes, but they liked to write and wanted to do more.

For others, well, let’s just say they got stuck with their last choice.

We used writing prompts in every session, some related to hobbies and some to heritage.  On Wednesdays, a spoken word poet came for the last hour and guided us through memories and feelings to create prose poems.

No matter what their attitude when they started, by the end of our six weeks, these teens had produced some powerful writing.  Strong emotions, some lovely phrases, and an amazing sense of empowerment for all of them.

One of our early prompts was: “Just because ____, doesn’t mean ____, doesn’t mean ____, and doesn’t mean ____.”  Repeat that with three different ideas, related or not, and finish with a statement of strength.

Their cultural struggles and experiences with prejudice and/or ignorance came blasting through.  As an Anglo, I’m aware of prejudice but it’s not something I’ve experienced first-hand.  At least, not because of how I look.

Do you know how eye-opening it was to read, “Just because my skin is brown doesn’t mean I’m not as good as you,”and “doesn’t mean I can’t do math,” and “doesn’t mean I don’t like pizza.”

Who could ever think that because a girl is Hispanic, she wouldn’t like pizza??  I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised at how put-down these kids are automatically made to feel.

However, I loved to see the strength shine in their eyes as they wrote and read and heard these feelings put into words, and finished with strong statements like “I am strong/ powerful/worth respect, no matter what color my skin is.”

With permission from the author, Kat A., here’s a prose poem with a non-heritage theme:

0001-79001393Pretty great for a 13-year-old, don’t you think?

 

 

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5 Responses to Writing with Latino Youth

  1. Wow, what a wonderful experience that must have been for you and the students! And that poem is wonderful.
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  2. Melissa G. says:

    This is great. What a rewarding experience for both you and the kids. 🙂

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      It was. It took some of the kids a while to warm up to us, but we each had great connections with at least a few by the time we were done.

  3. Sorry I’m just now seeing this, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss it completely. What a great experience, for them and for you! Thanks for sharing some of it with us.