Speaking the Spoken: Personal Growth through the Power of Poetry – Part 3 of 3

July 29, 2011 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Students who are expelled from school face a myriad of challenges that must be addressed in order for them to function successfully in society.  Southwest Key’s Travis County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) serves just this purpose: to get expelled students back on the right track in life.  One of the most inventive programs at the JJAEP aimed at personal growth is Speaking the Spoken, which teaches students to articulate their thoughts and feelings through spoken-word poetry.  (Need to refresh your memory? Check out the first two installments of this series: Part One  Part Two)

Through their Speaking the Spoken experience, the students at JJAEP learn to open up and express themselves freely.  In a student population where there is normally a high level of stigma associated with sharing one’s feelings, this is a major accomplishment.  Additionally, students gain the ability to cope with their issues in a creative way that is more productive, introspective, and healthier than engaging in fights, drugs, or other criminal activity.

After Speaking the Spoken, students’ written and oral communication skills improve substantially, as does their attitude toward presenting their ideas to others.  The success of Speaking the Spoken can be seen in the pre- and post-tests that are administered to students upon arrival and completion of the JJAEP program.  After four years of data collection, 98% of youth who identified as having a lack of family and social supports reported an increase in their ability to express themselves and control their anger; these students report having a greater perception of self as well.  Students become better writers, talk and interact more openly and positively with others, and are glad to be a part of the Speaking the Spoken program.

Jason Rubio, Southwest Key’s program director for the Travis County JJAEP, praises the program, saying, “I’m sure that many of our students will look back and reflect on their participation in this program as one of the highlights of being at JJAEP.”

As the Spring 2011 semester at JJAEP came to a close, the students made a trip to East Austin College Prep, where a similar Xenogia program had been taking place, funded by the National Council of Crime and Delinquency.  The JJAEP students performed their spoken word poetry for the Prep students, focusing on messages about making good choices and living positively.  Considering the background of the JJAEP students, creating such a message was a challenge; growing up, they often lacked the types of positive role models that they sought to emulate through their performance to the young and impressionable Prep students.

At one point during the performance, one of the East Austin Prep students asked, “What is the JJAEP?”

To which a JJAEP student replied, “It’s a place where if you make a mistake, you get a second chance.”

What students make of their second chance is up to them.  Speaking the Spoken offers an innovative way for students to gain insight into their emotions and express themselves artistically and otherwise.  Through spoken word poetry, their raw feelings are transformed: coherent, meaningful, revelatory.  The Speaking the Spoken program captures the spirit of the JJAEP in this transformation.  After their JJAEP experience, those who were once headed down a dead-end path are prepared to live a positive and meaningful life.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

Entry filed under: Juvenile Justice, Southwest Key Programs.

Speaking the Spoken: Not Your Typical Poetry Class – Part 2 of 3 Middle Schoolers Visit Colleges, Touring their Future

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Personal growth  |  August 9, 2011 at 4:20 am

    nice post, I like it.please post more articles.



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