‘We’ve created over 100 writers:’ Districtwide poetry slam inspires students to share their stories

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Three fifth-grade students took home several thousand dollars in scholarships after winning a districtwide poetry contest.

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Dallas ISD’s Reading Language Arts (RLA) Department hosted the second-annual Dallas ISD Poetry Slam at Hector P. Garcia Middle School on Thursday, Feb. 20. Approximately 150 students from 77 Dallas ISD elementary schools competed for $10,000 in college scholarships at the event.

Lucía Sol Montemayor’s father takes a picture of the three winners of the 2020 Dallas ISD Poetry Slam, who are posing with their checks.

 

In order to compete, fifth-grade students had to write and recite their own poem. More than 700 students competed at the campus level during December and January. The first- and second-place winners of each campus advanced to the Dallas ISD Poetry Slam.

At Hector P. Garcia, the 150 students were divided into seven classrooms. Each student had to recite their poem in front of judges, parents and other students. The judges selected one winner per classroom. The winners advanced to the final round, where they recited their poem on a stage. The first-, second- and third-place winners won a scholarship for $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively.

“I think what happened here is that we’ve created over 80 writers, whether they won or not,” said Aimee McCullar, professional development supervisor for RLA. “They have discovered a new power: that they’re able to share their story and be heard. This competition has given many of them that confidence.”

Roland Parrish, owner and CEO of Parrish Restaurants Ltd., chose “My Voice, My Community” as this year’s theme. Parrish is a local entrepreneur who owns and operates 25 McDonald’s restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth. He has funded the Poetry Slam scholarship prizes for the last two years.

Dallas entrepreneur Roland Parrish poses with Bailey Sanders, a fifth-grade student at William B. Travis Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted. Sanders participated on the of the 2020 Dallas ISD Poetry Slam where she won second place. Parrish has sponsored this districtwide contest for the last two years, where he provides $10,000 in scholarships for the first, second and third places.

 

“The skills that the students developed from this competition are things that they can continue working on and honing throughout the years,” Parrish said. “They may become performers. they may become speech teachers or writers. I hope these scholarships allow these talented students an opportunity to enjoy the American Dream.”

The winners

Lucia Sol Montemayor, a fifth-grade student at Solar Preparatory School for Girls at James B. Bonham, won first place. Her poem highlighted her identity, from the meaning of her name and the culture of her ancestors, to the school that she attends and the person that she is today.

 

While reciting, she wanted to impress the judges and the parents. But she also wanted to send a message of confidence to the 150 fifth-grade students in the audience.

“I want for the students that heard the poem to know that they are not weak,” Montemayor said. “You have a voice and you can use it. You shouldn’t be afraid to move out of your shell and be yourself. And you shouldn’t care about all the mean people. There’s going to be mean people in the world, but you can’t let them get the best of you.”

Bailey Sanders, a fifth-grade student at William B. Travis Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted won second place. She recited a poem about the hardships of her and her peers transitioning into their teens and how she’s struggling on whether to give in to change.

 

Bailey Sanders, a fifth-grade student at William B. Travis Vanguard for the Academically Talented and Gifted, won second place. Sanders’ poem focused on her personal struggle as her peers and herself transition into their teenage years.

Osvaldo Osorio, a fifth-grade student at Jerry R. Junkins Elementary School won third-place. He recited a poem in Spanish about feeling different from his peers due to being a new immigrant from Venezuela.

 

Osvaldo Osorio, a fifth-grade student at Jerry R. Junkins Elementary School, won third place. He migrated from Venezuela two years ago and wrote and presented his poem in Spanish. During the presentation, he described his difficulties fitting in at school and being treated as less intelligent by other students, solely for not speaking English perfectly.

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