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The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Youth Poet Laureates speak through the power and rhythms of words

Poetry, a celebration of experiences and emotions
Tshaka+Campbell%2C+54%2C+Santa+Clara+County+Poet+Laureate%2C+begins+his+powerful%2C+rhythmic+speech.
Audrey Tran
Tshaka Campbell, 54, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, begins his powerful, rhythmic speech.

The Santa Clara Youth Poet Laureate program held a Kick-Off event at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, inviting their Poet Ambassadors and open-mic speakers to share their work with the audience, on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Amongst all the chattering from the audience, the bright lights focus towards the front, where a microphone stand awaits the storytelling to begin.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with Tshaka Campbell, 54, the Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, who quickly captivates the audience as he shares moving poems full of sorrow and truth that speaks to the pain of reality.

The spotlight eventually goes to the youth speakers: Thy Luong, 17, Youth Poet Laureate, Matthew Kim, 17, Vice Youth Laureate, Sage Cobb, 15, Poetry Ambassador and Nisha Shenoy, 16, Poetry Ambassador. All of the speakers present their work, odes to their childhood memories, a mix between joyful occasions and the challenges of facing societal expectations.

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Shenoy discusses her love for poetry and recalls what drew her into the artistic world.

“I just really enjoyed being able to play with words, the structure and the connotation of all the words. (…) I really just enjoyed having the power to be able to write and share what’s the meaning through my experience,” Shenoy said.

The Santa Clara County (SCC) Youth Poet Laureate program is a youth-centered program that aims to celebrate literacy through poetry and to create a space for young writers to connect with each other and have opportunities for performances and community collaborations, such as this Kick-Off event.

Janine Lobo Sapigano, 36, one of the speakers at the event, founded the Santa Clara County Youth Poet Laureate program.

“I knew that I wanted to direct my attention, and therefore the county’s attention, to a community that I thought was severely underserved, in this case with youth,” Sapigano said.

Every year, the program accepts applications from Santa Clara County writers between ages 13-18, looking for young people who are passionate about the growth and development of their communities.

“You definitely have something to say. We are so capable of being the narrators and writers of (our) own stories,” Sapigano said.

Sapigano shares her thoughts on the incredible capabilities for youth to express their thoughts and feelings.

“People shared empathy, humor, history – people talked about their families with a range of emotions. (The) Youth are so capable and I think a lot of times, adults approach them as if they don’t have a lot of life experiences. But that’s just simply untrue,” Sapigano said.

Campbell spoke about his love and admiration of the youth poets.

“I love these youth poets and what they have to say – the courage and the ability to articulate what they’re feeling on page is amazing, and to do it at this age is phenomenal,” Campbell said.

An important aspect of the Youth Poet Laureate position is a commitment to civic engagement and social impact – the dedication to promoting quality of life and working towards equity and inclusiveness.

“Poetry is part of everything – poetry is activism, poetry is learning about oneself – it’s reflection,” Sapigano said.

Shenoy describes how the program encourages community involvement and engagement.

“It really pushes us to think about what we want to share with our community, what kind of impact we want to make,” Shenoy said.

The Santa Clara County Youth Laureate program provides a place for young people to express their emotions and turn their passions into action.

“A space is always needed for our youth to talk about what they believe in and to start conversations,” Campbell said.

Shenoy expresses her thoughts on why these types of youth programs are important.

“I think this program helped me a lot with growing more confident in my writing and learning how to best share my writing, and growing as a writer,” Shenoy said.

The SCC Youth Poet Laureate provides youth in our community the tools and resources to pursue their passions through the art of poetry.

“Being a part of this program has allowed me to reflect on (…) what message I want to share with the world. (This program) really just gives you the space, time, resources and support to really think about what your goals are as writers and how you can share that and support each other,” Shenoy said.

Campbell expresses his utmost confidence in today’s youth.

“Folks my age have a perception about what youth are today. (…) This is a testimony to how powerful and innovative young people are (…) Our future is in good hands,” Campbell said.

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About the Contributor
Audrey Tran, Freelance Reporter
Audrey is a second-year anthropology student who yearns to inspire others to always be curious. She is excited to be a part of La Voz and hopes to turn her writing into a form of encouragement for others to always yearn to learn and ask questions about the world.

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