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Student Voice Amplified at First JCCS Poetry Slam

Student Voice Amplified at First JCCS Poetry Slam

With music and dancing, the environment was festive and inviting for students, parents, and staff from the San Diego County Office of Education and its Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) as they gathered for the first JCCS Poetry Slam.

Students from nearly all JCCS campuses, including Bayside Community School, Youth Transition Campus, and Career Technical Education Center read poems they wrote as part of their spring writing projects or from a favorite author. Poems were delivered in both English and Spanish, and some danced while they read. Students who were unable to attend also submitted pre-recorded readings that were played in between live readings and live music. In all, more than 30 students participated with staff and parents packing the audience in support.

“JCCS is all about empowering student voice. We’re always looking for opportunities to hear our student’s stories and they all have stories,” said JCCS Instructional Coach Melanie Karaffa, who helped coordinate the event. “What was important about the event is that their culture came out, their language came out, their experiences came out, and you saw a vast array of topics from deep to light-hearted. Our students are creative and any time they have a space to share, they rise to the occasion,” she said.

The event involved students as much as possible. Mateo, a student at Bayside, served as emcee and guided the event through in-person and pre-recorded readers, offering encouragement to all. San Pasqual Academy took photos of the event.

Poetry topics included police brutality, racism, students’ native countries, and hope.

Karaffa got the idea for the Poetry Slam after learning about the Get Lit curriculum at this year’s SDCOE Equity Conference and implementing it in JCCS. She was excited with the large turnout and hopes it will inspire more participants next year.

Here are two poems students shared at the event.


Grab Hold of My Heart

Harmony from San Pasqual Academy

You showed me that I’m not alone.
Why I might not relate to the entire piece of art I see before me.
My soul listens.
My heart beats.
I find myself wanting to dance.
My soul leaving my body.
I want to expel the emotions my body feels.
They keep me tethered to the earth.
Remind me who I am and what I work towards.
The judgement in which I fear grabs hold of me and promises to never let go.
When I close my eyes, hear the beat and start to dance, nothing will keep my soul from being free.
I don’t want to wait for wings to sprout from my back, to fly away from my fears.
I will face them.
I will dance with them in the dark.
A new light being my guide?
Shining beautifully
For when I open my eyes, there will only be me and my shadow.


Written by Damien and delivered by Vanessa from East County Community School

In the heart of the barrio, where culture thrives, I stand as a Chicano, where passion survives. With roots deep in history, we rise and we fight, For justice and pride, in the day and the night.

From Aztec warriors to modern-day dreams, we carry the legacy in our bloodstreams. Brown skin, proud soul, our story untold, In the rhythm of life, our journey unfolds.

We dance with the spirits of ancestors’ past, their whispers of wisdom, forever they last. In the struggle for justice, we take our stand, With clenched fists and voices, across the land.

In the face of adversity, we find our strength, in unity and solidarity, we go to great lengths. Chicano pride runs deep in our veins, A symphony of resilience, despite the pains.

So here I stand, in the poetry of my being, a Chicano soul, forever believing. In the power of our people, in the face of adversity, we rise, we thrive, in our Chicano diversity.


Where I'm From

By Gigi, 37ECB

I am from plants
From sprinkle doughnuts and fabuloso
I am from the smell of the tamales, warm, spicy, juicy.
I am from my moms garden outside my house. It has a cactus.
I'm from everyone in their own world and we all have anger issues.
From concepcion chiquete and pelo
I'm from the screaming to each other and being bipolar
From the pinch my mom would give to me and being called dora
I'm from going to church a couple times a week
I'm from camino real
Banana leaves tamales, albondigas
From unknown family stories
To the amazing cooking my mom does.
I’m from the cookie container that holds happy memories.


Where I'm From

By Gio, 37ECB

I am Gio
I wonder what people think about
I hear people talking about crazy and fun things
I see my computer
I want some food
I am chill and happy
I pretend to act friendly to people i don't like
I feel comfortable
I touch my tv remote
I worry about being safe
I cry when someone takes a family member or someone that i really care about
I care about different people and different things just depends who it is and what it is

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