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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Local youths brave the stage for poetry slam competition

Poetry is often thought to be one of the best ways for young people to express their feelings in a dynamic and creative way. Not only does SAYS – Sacramento Area Youth Speaks – believes strongly in this cause, they are throwing a poetry slam to promote it.

On Friday, SAYS will hold its third annual summit and poetry slam hosted by UC Davis at Freeborn Hall from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Registration for the summit is already closed; however, the evening poetry slam tickets costs $5 for youth ten and under, $7 for UC Davis students and $11 to 21-year-olds and $15 for adults over the age of 22.

Working with the UC Davis School of Education’s Center for Cooperative Research and Extension Services for Schools (CRESS) Center, SAYS is a program that developed out of a partnership with various stakeholders concerned with the achievement gap and dropout crisis throughout the Sacramento region. The program believes that with the proper attention paid to the development and growth of their voices, youth will have the ability and confidence to succeed in today’s society.

SAYS has a number of sponsors including the Sierra Health Foundation, the Sacramento City Unified School District, the Woodland Joint Unified School District and the Twin Rivers Unified School District.

Vajra Watson, director of research and policy for equity at the CRESS Center, said SAYS is based on the best practices in the field of literary arts education and youth development.

“We take a unique and innovative approach to literacy as a tool for reaching and teaching this generation,” Watson said.

The CRESS Center’s goal is to close opportunity gaps for children and youth and tackling the effects that the inequalities of race, class, language and gender can have on student achievement, according to their web site.

The day-long poetry summit and slam is a culmination of year-round programming that SAYS provides in public schools throughout the Sacramento area. It is a unique opportunity for students to experience the UC Davis campus, interact with undergraduate mentors and participate in thought-provoking literacy workshops led by esteemed educators and professors from across the country, the web site said.

The summit will go from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. All young – middle and high school age – poets, rappers and singers from the greater Sacramento area are encouraged to participate in the event. From 6 to 9 p.m., artists will perform at the poetry slam, considered the finals for the daylong event. Six students with the top scores in the poetry slam will go on to compete in the International Teen Poetry Slam called “Brave New Voices.”

“These six students will comprise the Sacramento team and they will serve as ambassadors for the youth voices of this region,” Watson said.

Since SAYS began, more than 10,000 young people have participated in the program.

“In our first year, we had 350 students attend the summit. Last year, we had 900. Throughout the school year, we work with nearly 10,000 students and teachers at schools throughout the region,” Watson said.

This year, SAYS is expecting 800 students to attend the summit and 1,400 people to attend the poetry slam. This year’s theme, “Know Your Writes,” focuses on helping students understand education as a civil right.

“Given the school-to-prison pipeline, we want students to understand the school-to-college pipeline and how to utilize literacy and writing as tool for empowerment,” Watson said.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, according to American Civil Liberty Union official web site. The web site also states that many of these children would benefit from additional educational and counseling services – what SAYS is all about.

For more information about SAYS and the “Know Your Writes” event, visit says.ucdavis.edu. Tickets for the event can be purchased at Freeborn Hall or online through tickets.com.

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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