Poetry in Motion
An innovative educational approach in Salinas.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
While Salinas’ plan to pay for more police was derailed by last week’s failure of Measure K, school children were absorbing a promising approach to building peace at El Sausal Middle School. Chicano author Luis Rodriguez visited the school and CSU Monterey Bay as part of the Service Learning Institute’s Increase the Peace program.
“Measure K was great for providing some financial resources to institutions like law enforcement,” says Miguel Lopez, a CSUMB liberal studies professor. “But we need to have a parallel, if not stronger, approach in the public schools – not about gang prevention, but about community building.”
Starting this semester, Lopez has been working with El Sausal teachers on a student-engaging curriculum, starting with Rodriguez’s picture book América is Her Name, about an undocumented immigrant from Oaxaca living in violent Chicago who finds salvation in poetry. “The book affirms so many things about growing up in a city like Salinas,” Lopez says.
Students wrote América-inspired poems and made piñatas, all alongside CSUMB college students. Assistant Principal Raul Ramirez says 150 students have been participating in the program.
Next semester, El Sausal students will meet Graffiti Girl author Kelly Parra. Lopez wants to extend the program to Seaside as well as Salinas’ Alisal High and Frank Paul Elementary. As Rodriguez says, “Imagination is the way out of violence.”