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Aurora Poet Laureate Ahja Fox visits students at Independence, Polton Elementaries

ElementariesFourth and fifth-grade students at Independence and Polton Elementaries learned about poetry from Aurora’s Poet Laureate, Ahja Fox, who visited students recently to teach them about poetry and to hear their creations. 

Students at both schools were able to read the poems they had created where they shared their feelings on their home, siblings, family, school experiences, and more, allowing students a window into a love of language that Fox hopes stays with them for a lifetime. Fox talked with students about the agreement between a speaker and audience, sharing different ways for students to respect and show support for their fellow poets.

“I do this work in hopes students step away feeling more enlightened and empowered,” shared Fox. “Their voice matters, but so do their peers. It is a regular objective to teach them to speak AND to listen as these are, arguably so, the fundamentals to a well-rounded human being.”

Fox’s visit to Independence was sparked by inspiration from another school, Mission Viejo Elementary, who organized a similar poetry lesson with their YELL (Youth Equity Leaders and Learners) group last year. When Independence’s school social worker Laura Mitchell met with the Poet Laureate, they both knew the poetry activity would be a natural fit.

“We have really been wanting to work on belonging and creating a sense of community where everyone can build strong relationships with each other,” Mitchell said. “When our students can share parts of their lives with each other, we see more connections and friendships develop.”

Fourth-grader Jayci Klear has loved being part of the group, explaining that she wanted to find a place where she could feel safe.

“I joined YELL club because when they first came in, I saw how much leadership everybody had and saw that they said it was a safe place to share what you really feel and I really support that,” Klear shared. “It’s important to have a safe place, because if I get overwhelmed or see something that I don’t think it was right, I can talk about it. I’ve learned from being part of YELL to not be selfish and  to speak your mind. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it.”

One of the YELL club members, fourth-grader Javier Jimenez, enjoyed learning about how poetry works and shared that he found writing to be very peaceful.

“Poetry is something you can do to calm down, when you write about something it can make you feel happy,” Jiminez shared. “I have done it at home sometimes to cool down.”

Fourth-grader Anelia Nacer Cherif, enjoyed learning how to make a poem and has enjoyed being part of a group that works to make the school a better place. 

“YELL club is really cool, because I myself am a Muslim person and a lot of people don’t think that because usually Muslim girls wear a hijab, but I don’t for safety reasons,” said Nacer Cherif. “Throughout my whole life, I’ve been really inspired by helping people and caring about them. It’s like the club was made for me.”

Posted 5/26/23.