A City Year Seattle corps member’s typical work day focuses on interacting with and educating the next generation of leaders. However, recently a group of us had the unique opportunity to connect with a special member of the community. We shared the T-Mobile Diplomas Now team at Aki Kurose Middle School with Floyd Jones, who is an investment banker by day, poet by night and longtime Seattle philanthropist. He joined City Year Seattle to see our programs in action and how corps members and students use poetry in their service and school work.
The connection between poetry and service is unique. It gives corps members the opportunity to connect with students outside of the usual schoolwork, allowing them to share a passion. It is wonderful when one of our supporters shares that same passion. When Mr. Jones visited with us at Aki Kurose Middle School, three generations were connected through art: Floyd Jones, corps members, and students.
Mr. Jones toured the school, participated in a lively conversation with four corps members, and assumed the role of audience member during a student rehearsal for the City Year hosted Student Arts Slam. Mr. Jones and corps members shared their views on why the art of the spoken language and service are important to each of them. Corps member Kendall Morgan said,
“When I write a rap it is very introspective; it is when I reflect on my life and feelings. At this point in my life, service is my focus so it’s inevitable that it is a part of my music. If you don’t reflect on what you are doing, you lose some of the substance that can be learned. Rap and spoken word are my way of doing that.”
After the discussion, Mr. Jones and the corps members attended the final practice session for the arts slam. Students shared songs, raps, and poems about the events happening in their world. One student dedicated a poem to her mom and focused on the lessons her mother has taught her. Another student shared a piece titled “The Situation,” in which she painted a chilling picture of some of the struggles that middle school students face. She detailed students making choices to either get involved in “The Situation,” which she described as gang life and peer pressure, or pursuing education. It was amazing to see students approach the realities of what goes on in their middle school with so much maturity and understanding.
The intergenerational connection displayed during this visit was astonishing. It is refreshing to be able to be a part of another generation’s experiences and to have representatives of three generations, all sharing a common passion, in the same room.
Text by Kendall Morgan, City Year Seattle/King County Recruitment Project Leader