By Antwoine Johnson, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Youth
Over the past couple of weeks, AALEAD youth at Newport Mill Middle School and Loiederman Middle School have been exploring mental health. One part of mental health is self-awareness, being conscious of your thoughts, beliefs, and values and how they shape you and your view of the world. The youth have been doing this a lot through open-ended and reactionary discussions, through viewing and listening to spoken word poems. Spoken word is a way of expressing yourself through poetry, so the youth had opportunities to share how the poems made them feel.
In order to apply what they have learned about self-awareness, they had the opportunity to express who they are through “I am” poems. Each line of the poem began with “I am.” After creating their poems, ranging from 5-line to 15-line poems, they had the opportunity to share the poems in small groups. Youth expressed that while this made them nervous, they were also content because of the fact that “they were sharing who they really are with their families.” This just shows that AALEAD youth really do feel like they are part of an AALEAD family.
By the end of the workshop, AALEAD youth realized that even though it was hard bringing some emotions to the surface, it also made AALEAD youth happy to know that there were others in the room that shared some of their likes, insecurities, and struggles. Having people to support one another through these similarities, insecurities, and struggles is an important way to deal with stress and related mental health issues, which is a valuable lesson that was learned through these past few weeks.
Below are excerpts from a few poems created by AALEAD youth at Newport Mill Middle School and Loiederman Middle School:
“I am afraid on the inside,
I am not afraid to chase my dream that is in my mind,
I am protective,
I am strong.”
“I am the man who walking alone on the street,
I am passing through the crowds,
I am afraid to be lost in the crowds and no one can hear me,
I am trying to scream,
I am trying to fight, but I lost to this life,…
I am being bullied, but yet
I am still trying,
I am still trying to reform and to be the best inside of your mind.”
“I am who I am,
I am the one who loves her family so much,
I am hard-working,
I am an aunt, a sister, and a daughter who wants to be loved,
I am afraid of the outside world and lies, I just want to yell for them to stop with lying!
I am who I am,
I am the future mom who will teach and sing to my children.”