National Poet Speaks at Pelham SchoolsMarch 27, 2015
by Kaela Law
Weston Clark, a very bright and eloquent young man, was aptly chosen to represent the National Student Poets Program to promote the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success. On the morning of March 23, Weston Clark spent time at the Pelham Memorial and Pelham High schools guiding students through poetry workshops.
Weston Clark’s aunt, in her second year as Pelham’s School District Superintendent, Amanda Lecaroz has done a great job and a great service to the Pelham community in making these poetry workshops possible. What a wonderful way to engage the students, presenting them with the opportunity for one-on-one personal attention to hone their poetical skills by an individual within their peer group who has achieved such a high honor and national recognition at a young age.
English teacher Mrs. Pelletier was excitedly walking around her classroom participating in the workshop that nicely wrapped up a poetry unit as part of the 6th grade curriculum. Outlining the success of a young poet and bringing him into the classroom to speak with the students provided the sixth graders with a role model whose accomplishments they could emulate. “It’s important for [the students] to make those connections; that this could be them someday,” said Mrs. Pelletier.
The poetry workshop acted as a forum to foster and promote creativity and the arts as well as presenting the students a positive outlet to set their ambitions. Adding to what they’ve already learned throughout the poetry course taught by Pelham middle school teachers, the poetry workshop set an assignment to encourage the children to submit their work for consideration into the National Chapbook.
At the high school level students can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. This year, Pelham High School students were awarded five gold key accomplishments in the arts. “The poetry workshops are aimed to spur more writing submissions from Pelham students to the country’s largest art and writing event for young people.” Making submissions to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was what led Weston Clark from Indianapolis to New Hampshire as a literary ambassador. From New Hampshire he will continue to tour across the country using his love of poetry to help spread a message of acceptance.
“Poetry has a unique capability to bring people together through shared emotion,” Weston said. In his year as an ambassador, Weston is working to “create relationships through poetry,” to promote acceptance of different cultures. He led the 6th graders and high school students through workshops specifically centered around Praise Poetry, having the students draw from their memories and their pasts to embrace their own personal heritage, culture and sense of self. In having the students learn through poetry that their feelings are universal across cultures it can instill them with a better sense of tolerance and understanding.
His message is very positive, “Providing mirrors through poetry [people] can see themselves in others.” To start reflecting outwards, Weston had the students reaching inwardly recollecting songs that invoke strong emotions, heirlooms and legends that are exemplary of respect, and family members and places that helped define their characters. Students cited everywhere from Muldoon Park to the White Mountains as areas integral to their upbringing.
At the high school workshops, Weston Clark spent more time talking about the steps he took from average high school student freshman to nationally recognized poet visiting the White House. He shared anecdotes about intimidating secret service men straightening his bowtie, awkward chats with First Lady Michelle Obama, and even a “selfie” taken with the president’s dog, all on his way to receiving the nation’s highest honor for young poets. It all stemmed from his love of writing, but Weston Clark admitted he “never expected all this.”
In showcasing his poetry at these workshops, Weston Clark embodied the precise message he is working to convey. He is making his journey relatable to inspire greatness and self-motivation in others. The NSPP Poetry Workshops were auspicious events for the Pelham School System, and the hope is to see young Pelham writers embracing the experience and driving their talents forward as 16-year-old Weston Clark has done.