On the evening of Friday, May 18th, WordPlay’s Northside writing center became the stage for some of Cincinnati’s young poets to show off their growth, celebrate the school year ending and kick-off the beginning of summer programs. Middle and high school students performed their powerful poems and spoken word written during WordPlay workshops in front of a full house of parents, friends, teachers, benefactors, newcomers, and the WordPlay team and board members. The students’ writing addressed important topics such as suicide, mental and physical health, politics, education and sexual assault. Their accomplishments, passion and talent sometimes brought tears to the audience’s eyes.
WordPlay’s first-floor program space was transformed into a welcoming open house (also a belated birthday mention for the executive director and co-founder, Libby Hunter) with music, balloons, pizza, snacks, desserts and refreshments. Parents mingled, board members introduced themselves and newcomers learned what WordPlay has to offer. As the adults socialized, the students happily settled in like it was their second home. The life-changing bonds that had formed between them through WordPlay radiated love as they piled in the clawfoot bathtubs lined with comfy pillows, sprawled out together with their arms and fingers intertwined, supporting each other after such emotional performances. WordPlay has become a safe place and creative outlet for them.
Many of the young poets came from WordPlay’s 3-day per week WordUP program at Aiken High School. WordUP runs throughout the academic year, providing opportunities for educational and personal growth through creative projects that showcase the students' talent through publication of student writing, community engagement events, field trips and other interactive experiences. WordUP helps each student find their unique voice through creative expression and self-reflection. They build strong connections with their peers, WordPlay learning coaches, and leaders from the community through shared readings and discussion on social justice, identity, and community. Though the school year is coming to a close, fear not, summer workshops and programs will begin soon and can be viewed on WordPlay’s calendar at https: www.wordplaycincy.org/program-calendar.
Several other poets came from WordPlay Cincy Scribes, an ongoing weekend workshop for teens that provides a positive, upbeat community to explore identity, culture, current events and the media through poetry and creative self-expression. The workshop is run by WordPlay’s program coordinator Desirae Hosley, a seasoned spoken word artist and poet, working magic with kids who want to dive into the world of writing and performance. “WordPlay Cincy Scribes reflected what a day in our Saturday workshop looks like on stage. We are fearless, unapologetic and loving in the art of words!” said Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley. Students do not have to perform in this workshop, as they can choose to hone their creative skills in the way that best suits their individual style. They will however, be given opportunities to do so in public showcases, festivals, and events across the city.
New parents and their young writers came to the open house to learn about the organization and summer programs, meet the Wordplay team and see the space. A mother and her seventh grade daughter new to WordPlay were among this group. They were at first sitting quietly in the corner, observing the strong connections, but quickly became part of the conversation and warmth as they were approached by WordPlay volunteers and staff members. The mother and daughter learned about the Rhythm and Rhymes and #Humanw(R)ites summer programs, for which the daughter signed up. For more information on how to enroll in these and other summer programs, visit https://www.wordplaycincy.org/summer-programs.
WordPlay Cincy is a 501c3 nonprofit that helps Cincinnati's young people fulfill their potential through reading, writing and storytelling. Programs are free to students and their families, and they include summer offerings, workshops for different ages in WordPlay's Northside writing center, mobile activities in collaboration with other nonprofits and also partnerships at local schools. Through creative projects led by skilled teaching artists, students grow a passion for the literary: they can be published in the WordPlay press, make public works like Poet Trees for their communities and share their accomplishments through Readers Theater, showcases and spoken word performances. The resulting impact is deep: they learn to express themselves, develop socially and emotionally, practice critical thinking, build community and work towards goals for their futures. Read stories, learn more and become a sustaining donor for as little as $8.25 per month by visiting www.wordplaycincy.org.