Words are powerful but many young people might not know how to express themselves with words. That’s what inspired Ara Cruz, the founder and lead facilitator of “Words To Power” to offer poetry workshops in the Denver metro area elementary, middle, and high schools. His goal is to help underserved youth to express themselves by using engaging and culturally relevant poetry.
“I’m not asking everyone to be a poet, but it is about realizing that no one’s going to speak for you. And it’s important for you to be able to speak for yourself and be your own advocate,” says Ara.
Ara was born and raised in Denver and most of his poetry is based on his experiences as a Mexican American. He wrote poetry for 15 years before starting “Words to Power.”
“Poetry and the spoken word were tools for me, as a young person. You know, my senior year in high school, and in college, it was a way for me to realize the power of my words,” says Ara. “We make sure that kids feel a connection with that form of expression so that they feel like they belong, that they too can write and tell their story.”
Students get a chance to learn about Indigenous Mexican writing styles in these workshops.
“We embrace our culture, we use it as a way to uplift ourselves, and push forward.”
Ara has been organizing open mic events for a long time now, as well as conducting spoken word workshops in schools and conferences. He wants people to see themselves in poetry.
“I know for myself, a lot of the poetry that I read as a young person I cannot really relate to. I’ve noticed that that’s the case with a lot of kids these days. And so, it’s really about offering them some poetry, spoken word that they can relate too.”
Words to Power publishes a yearly youth poetry book and hosts a book publishing party during the summer where students can sign up to recite their poetry in front of their peers. At La Raza Park Days in Sunnyside this summer his students got up and performed.
“I think it was good for the parents and families to be able to see the kids’ reading their poetry and be celebrated in that way. It’s another opportunity to be encouraged. Kids are given the chance to connect with each other and with community.”
Students get paid 50 dollars when they read poems during these events. Their families are invited, giving them a special moment to see their children read in front of hundreds of people.
Ara has seen the powerful impact writing poetry has had on his community by watching students break out of their shy shells and have a voice.
“It’s really about planting those seeds and lighting those fires.”
Words to Power offers a variety of workshops. There is a basic one-time workshop to an all-inclusive course that includes four workshops and an open mic assembly. For 75% of the students this is their first-time writing poetry. To sign up for a workshop for your class or school or to reach Are by email, visit Words to Power’s website (https://wordstopower.org/ ) .