2013 National Student Poets Wrap Up Their Year of Service2013 National Student Poets Wrap Up Their Year of Service

The year-long service projects and events held in communities in the five regions represented by the Class of 2013 National Student Poets (NSPP) illuminated how their talent and dedication opened up new horizons for youth and helped shape 2013 National Student Poets Wrap Up Their Year of ServiceHere Kentucky high school students work on a found poem exercise in a workshop led by Aline Dolinh, National Student Poet, Class of 2013.
their future. By design, the events and service projects focused on audiences who rarely experience poetry, but as 18-year old Michaela Coplen remarked to a group of incarcerated women in her workshop last April, “each of us have our own unique language, which means anyone can be a poet, but no one can be a poet like you.” Other projects like Sojourner Ahebee’s community service project used poetry to reach Alzheimer’s patients and Aline Dolinh created a series of workshops to explore with English as a Second Language students their native languages and cultures as a path to mastering English.

2013 National Student Poets Wrap Up Their Year of ServiceNational Student Poets and slam poet collaborators perform a new collective work accompanied by artist-in-resident Lil Buck at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
One of the highlights of the poets’ year was an invitation to participate in the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. As director of the Aspen Arts Program, PCAH member Damian Woetzel created a schedule of activities and events to hone the young writers’ sense of place and role in the world as poets and citizens. National Student Poets  Louis Lafair, Michaela Coplen, Sojourner Ahebee, and Nathan Cummings were joined by four counterparts from Young Chicago Authors and a Scholastic Gold Key winner in poetry—Brandonlee Cruz (Scholastic Gold Medal), Karlyn Boens (Louder Than a Bomb), Omari Ferrel (Louder than a Bomb), Wayne Strange (Louder than a Bomb).  All the poets instantly found a common passion for poetry in each other, catalyzing fresh ideas and bonds of trust and together they created a new poem based on the Japanese renga form. Aspen’s artist in residence Lil Buck became a big fan of the poets, and he added his personal interpretation to their performance of the new poem, which can be watched here. The Atlantic published poems by each of students on its web site as a tribute to the talent of these young writers.

The NSPP ambassador year came to a close this summer as it began with events that used their work and talent to inspire others and activities that met the goals of their community service projects, which they designed last fall. 

  • Scholastic Inc. commissioned Sojourner Ahebee to write a poem for their new branding campaign Open a World of Possible.  Read by Sarah Jessica Parker, her work provides the narrative for the campaign’s video. Sojourner also read with Poets for Change at an event in Philadelphia, PA to raise awareness of and encourage food donations for the homeless population.
  • Michaela Coplen's virtual poetry workshops continue her community service project’s focus on military youth. Collaborating with Blue Star Families, Michaela facilitated two Google+ Hangouts for military students in August.  During the hour-long workshops, Michaela shared helpful tools and techniques for writing.  Students also explored writing about memories from different angles in order to bring a full image of their own military life experiences into focus.  
  • Louis Lafair's virtual workshop for educators was the culmination of his community service project. Lafair collaborated with National Writing Project (NWP) staff to present a first-of-its-kind online webinar.  Lafair joined Elisa New (Professor of Poetry at Harvard University) and Jeremy Dean (Chief of Education at Genius.com) to discuss contemporary poetry and technology. In addition, Lafair was a featured reader and workshop facilitator at the Arizona State Library with Arizona's Poet Laureate and Academy of American Poets Chancellor, Alberto Rios through a partnership with the Arizona Center for the Book,  and he  also hosted a free workshop and reading at the Mesa Public Library.

2013 National Student Poets Wrap Up Their Year of ServiceNational Student Poet Louis Lafair with poet Jericho Brown at the Round Top Poetry Festival in Texas where Lafair read his poems.
Many of the poets were also recognized for their expertise and talent by being invited to serve as jurors. During the summer, the Studio 360 Poetry Challenge  enlisted five National Student Poets from the 2012 and 2013 classes—Claire Lee, Miles Hewitt, Lylla Younes, Luisa Banchoff and Sojourner Ahebee—to review the submissions to create a short list of the best work  from which a final winner was selected by poet Dorothea Lasky. The poetry contest was co-sponsored by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

The final act of the Class of 2013’s service year were their final poems, which they composed to capture their experience as National Student Poets. These were then read at a dinner celebrating the appointment of the new Class of 2014. All three classes of poets will continue to interact and share their work with each other over social media and can be followed on Facebook.