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Middle school students perform spoken word poetry

SPRINGFIELD, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - You have a chance to support a group of middle school students this week as they share some of their deepest thoughts and struggles.

Nearly 40 seventh graders from Springfield Middle School will perform spoken word poetry in Battle Creek Thursday night.

Their English teacher, Katherine Roberts, received an Innovation in Education grant from the Battle Creek Community Foundation to bring a group of professional poets in to her classroom last month.

She says she knows its not always easy for middle schoolers to express their feelings and thought poem-writing workshops would empower them to do so.

The professional poets, known as Kinetic Affect, encouraged her students to take something they struggle with and write it down.

Roberts says the result was astounding, telling NewsChannel 3 her students dug deep, sharing emotions they had kept hidden.

This has gone above and beyond any expectation I had for my students, Roberts says. It has built relationships between students and they're supporting each other. I've had students in tears. I've had students share things and feelings with me that they never would have shared with me before.

Twelve-year-old Jazmyn Frierson describes the experience as both powerful and empowering.

A poem's kind of like a diary to me so you can say anything you want to, Frierson says. I have a history of self-harming, so the poem is basically about my struggles in my life and how things got to me.

Classmate Mason Holmes discovered he likes to write and wants to turn his life around.

At the end of my poem I say, I'm a good kid and so are you, Holmes explains. Deep down everybody has a good kid, they just need to show it.

Roberts says every student has a story, but it's about allowing them to share it.

Middle schoolers need to feel like their voices can be heard. This gave them the power and control to be heard and to build empathy with other students, Roberts adds. And that's the most important thing is the relationships that get built.

The spoken word poetry performance is open to the public Thursday at 6pm at W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in Battle Creek. Kinetic Affect will take the stage at the event as well. Roberts says admission is free with a donation of a good used book for the statewide Read n Give program, which distributes books to students who are not able to buy their own.