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Famous Author Speaks to Kennedy Students

Maya Bickel, Editor-in-Chief

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Thursday, March 7th, the Minority Scholars Program (MSP) at Kennedy High School brought in Kwame Alexander to speak to a select group of students. Alexander is an American poet whose most recent book, The Crossover, won the 2015 Newbery Medal.

He was brought in as one of the key initiatives required from Kennedy’s Minority Scholars Program.

Mr. Williams, one of the faculty members of MSP and a long time friend of Kwame Alexander, coordinated the event. He chose Alexander because he knew “[Alexander] would be a person who could not only motivate students but have a message that Kennedy students, and all students, need to hear.”

Tara Cueto, a senior at Kennedy High School and a member of MSP, loved the talk. She said Kwame Alexander was someone students could easily relate to, and “he made it easy to talk to and joke around with,” which she didn’t expect from a poet and author. She also found his talk “very motivating and inspirational.”

Kwame Alexander’s talk focused on literacy but he did it through telling stories of his high school experience and his career, and interspersing each story with a recitation of one of his poems. During his talk, Alexander said that “poetry saved [his] life. It allowed [him] to understand [his] place in life and it also gave [him] a career.”

Alexander told the students that they have to learn how to make a living with the things they love to do. He explained that many people in his life said ‘no’ to him, and that was his biggest obstacle, but ‘no’s’ are a part of life, and students should accept that and believe in their work and their worth.

Over the course of the talk students had the chance to ask questions, and many were about how he became a poet and how he writes poems. He discovered poetry was for him when he was 12 years old, and the poets who had the most influence on him are Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, and E.E. Cummings. His writing process involves sitting in a chair for five hours, and he says “by hour three, it’s on.” He researches, imagines, and immerses himself in stories in order to develop characters.

Alexander also talked about why he wrote his novel The Crossover, a children’s novel about basketball written in poetic verse. He wanted to interest children, especially boys, in reading poetry, and he used basketball as a hook. 

By the end of the talk students understood his point that “words are powerful.”


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