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WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders: Project Funders:GlaxoSmithKlineThe Goodnight Educational FoundationJoseph M. Bryan Foundation State FarmThe Grable FoundationFarrington FoundationMore education stories from WUNC

Poetic Justice P.S.: American Graduate Part 3

Kane Smego

Graduation ceremonies are pretty much done but we have a P.S. for you, A poetic P.S. As part of WUNC's participation in the American Graduate Project, we commissioned slam poets Kane Smego and Will McInnerney to host an after-school writing workshop at Northern High School in Durham. And they did- for ten weeks. They're here to tell the stories of two young people who grabbed onto words and held tight.

Kane Smego and Will McInnerney:  We’ve been sowing seeds in minefields until the beanstalks find the giants inside of themselves the soil is never barren, but it’s gritty sometimes walking into classrooms where the word “poetry” sounds like Shakespearean fingernails on a chalkboard Sometimes it’s just an interest in words that pokes it way to the surface, other times the curiosity blooms into conviction in these classrooms we’re always looking for the next generation of leaders young poets who are ready to help the movement grow after 10 weeks at northern high school in Durham two graduates stood out Naima and Erik don’t just write and perform they use poetry to cope with and overcome life struggles now they want to help teach others to do the same.

Naima stays in bragg town an area in north Durham that’s full of assumptions from outsiders peering in she’s used to the closed door looks framed in deadbolt smirks she gets after telling people where she lives but Naima sees something different beneath the surface glances there’s potential waiting to open

Naima found spoken word a couple years back and starting coming to our events she was a little quieter back then we weren't the only ones who noticed the transformation We sat down with the Principal of Northern High School, Mrs. Bonner, and she remembers the old days

Now Naima is a leader in her community at school named the first poet laureate of Northern High she’s a bundle of spunk ready to support and encourage her peers With graduation checked off her list she now plans to come back to her school and tip the next dominos sitting in their desks

Many of the students in our class at Northern have struggled with academics for Erik grades were never the issue He didn’t always feel welcome at school suffering personal tragedies and feeling disconnected from the traditional classroom model made him feel out of place

Erik graduated last week for him high school was an arduous odyssey

Erik and Naima have found a home in poetry a community where they can create, where they can share themselves and build confidence, we need more spaces like this in the classroom

Eric Hodge: Kane Smego and Will McInnerney are Directors of the youth poetry organization Sacrificial Poets. Their work at Northern High School in Durham is a part of W-U-N-C's American Graduate Project. It's made possible in part by GlaxoSmithKline, The Goodnight Educational Foundation, The James M Bryan Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the contributions of WUNC listeners.

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