Poet Laureate Takes Stage at May 24 graduation

Ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. at the US Cellular Center


Photo provided by Jose Juarez

Jose Juarez, sr.,at homecoming.

“I figured if I was going to say it [graduation poem] in front of everyone, I’d want to make it about me, stuff in my life,” Jose Juarez said.  

This spring, Juraez submitted a poem and entered the competition to be named Kennedy’s 2018 Poet Laureate. Faculty selected his work, which means that he’ll present that original poem to the 2018 graduating class this week.

Those “life” images that Juarez has in his story are about his mother and father, religion, skateboarding, and freedom. He uses a lot of illusions in his story, which is a literary device.  

“I am excited to recite my poem, because I practiced it in the soccer field,” Juarez said.

He also had some help with edits from language arts teachers and district spokesperson Awki Niji.

Niji founded The Hook in 2016, a community organization focused on poetry and story telling. Through The Hook, people tell their stories through dance, song, poetry, stories, art, and music. Her advice to Juarez helped “with what things to keep, when to pause during my poem to help keep in beat, and what sounded best,” Juarez said.

Niji also confirmed if Juarez’s lines had value and matched the poem, or helped him decide what needed to be removed if it didn’t have value or strayed away from the purpose he wants to accomplish with his words.

“I hope [the poem] draws attention– people aren’t looking down at their phones but up at me,” Juarez said.

He thinks that other classmates can relate to his poem with its familial ties and with some of the personal experiences of high school. Emotional aspects to his poem he describes as feelings of confidence and frustration.  

“I had many motivations and inspirations to writing this poem, but I did write it to a beat,” Juarez said.  

His first draft took about a week and he even turned it in past the due date, which was May 7. Juarez has had a total of five drafts for his poem, and in his third he increased content and made rhyme scheme improvements.  The fourth draft he got rid of content. His fifth and final draft? Edited by multiple language arts teachers and Niji.

“My favorite parts are when I got personal,” Juarez said, “talking about my relationships with my parents, and how I felt about school things.”