Abigail Willis, 8th grade student at Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Mosely, VA wrote as part of her public poetry project proposal:
“I don’t believe in changing one’s ways just because of society’s standards, but I do believe … talking in someone’s language [can] get your point across. That’s why, for a social change, we must make people want to read poetry—to draw them to it….”
Abigail wants to invite kids in her community to form a “game-changing group” to write and paint poetry and their stories on a wall in an area near downtown Richmond where there is a high negative mental health rate. Using mainly recycled and donated materials, they plan to create a mural, after getting approval from building owners and the HOA. By June, she hopes that there will be poems on the mural “ready to mend the hearts of those who read them.”
I just got this update from Abby, where she shares that she has learned a lot about planning, managing, and collaborating with others. Abby wrote in an email, "When I first said I wanted to do a poetry mural, I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but what I didn't know was that there would be so many obstacles. I've been set back and snubbed off countless times. ... My biggest problem I've had to face is being taken seriously because I'm young. However, I recently found out that I have the principal's, the Superintendent's, and the School Board's support. I'm extremely grateful that they saw how my voice and ideas are worth sharing. They understand that this project is important to the community and I'm very relieved by that."
Abby and the students she's working with have decided on a "moving" poetry display/wall instead of a fixed mural. It will travel around Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) and local libraries through May and June. Abby adds, "Eventually, we will find a forever home for it."
Another highlight in Abby's experiences so far as a VA Young Poet in the Community is that she is being invited to a broadcasted CCPS School Board meeting to share her poem and project on April 12th.
On top of that, Abby and Jaiden Isaiah Brown (who is a VA Young Poet in the Community winner in the Elementary School category) were featured in the CCPS Catalog for their award.
One more from Abigail Willis: "It's been an amazing journey so far and I can't wait for you to see the finished product. When I won the YPIC award I had no idea it would open up this many possibilities. Thank you again for this opportunity,"
12th grade poet Stephanie Gomez made about 150 postcards printed with "Hidden Beat," a poem she wrote. The poem is about how art and music contribute to our general well-being, and have a social and emotional effect on people. She also thinks it reflects the nature of the service that teachers give. "Society often overlooks the strengths and passion they have to teach us," she says, and so she wanted to give a poetry postcard to faculty and staff at Kettle Run High School in Fauquier County, Nokesville, VA because she knows how much they give of themselves every day, and she waned to let them know that "they have been seen."
Stephanie continues, "Teachers often deal with the lack of appreciation and acknowledgment of how much they do for the community. They do so much for us and not a lot of people realize that. I think that the Music and Art department, teachers who do Core classes, Counseling, and the Econ[omics] and Personal Finance department will benefit from this kind of initiative because they help us with our passions and our future goals. They also are there for us when we need them the most. The teachers in those departments don't get enough recognition for what they do for us as students."
She completed her project at the end of February, and has received "extremely positive" responses.
Many postcard recipients put them up on their classroom walls, and also took them home. She has received emails of appreciation from her high school community.