Northshore Speaks gives voice to students

Students from schools across the district performed poems for a virtual audience last week.

By Meghan McLaughlin

Twenty-two students performed original spoken word poetry at the fourth annual Northshore Speaks livestreamed event on Thursday, April 29. Local poet Christian Paige also performed a piece he wrote for the event entitled “When You Grow Up.”

“Northshore Speaks provides an opportunity for our students to share their observations, personal experiences and personal stories,” said assistant director of Curriculum and Instruction Christy Clausen. “Their perspectives are so important. It’s a form of communication that evokes emotion through powerful language and performance.”

The event included students ranging from kindergarten to tenth grade. Students performed in four groups on topics like identity, the pandemic, relationships, hope and gratitude.

The student poets included Lily Yost, Treana Fredrick, Katlyn Fung, Arielle Mutoni-Wase, Soham Bhosale, Ithal Pasupathi, Vivaan Gupta, Harley McGhee, Krithikha Bharathy Mohan, Anay Arya, Jiya Joshi, Muzaffar Waheed, Muzaffar Isabella Zhang, Brihyana Paul, Ashrita Panigraphi, Mikaela Hoe, Smera Dhawan, Mukil Pasupathi, Rory Baunsgard and Phebe Emmanuel.

Paige, an Emmy-nominated poet, worked with the student poets to develop their performances before the livestream event.

“It’s been amazing,” Paige said. “A lot of people think younger people don’t grasp large concepts just because they’re young. It’s beautiful to see students write about concepts that adults don’t think they grasp, and I think you have to have a huge grasp on a concept to be able to write poetry about it.”

Paige mentioned Kenmore Middle School eighth-grader Shivani Kulandaivel’s poem “Trapped” and how Kulandaivel dove into a discussion of oppression and bias. He also highlighted Sunrise Elementary fifth-grader Senul Wickramaratna, who spoke of climate change and space travel in his poem, “I say.”

Paige’s poem, “When You Grow Up,” was inspired by his winding career choices and the values of Northshore School District. He said becoming a poet was not the path he envisioned, despite writing poetry at 17 years of age.

“I think Northshore has a vision for students that’s centered around purpose and mission more than it is around occupation,” Paige said. “I think that’s really cool. That’s what I wrote the poem about.”

Paige is a poet, speaker and educator with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. He is passionate about helping scholars use their voices powerfully. He grew up in Tacoma and is grateful for his Western Washington roots.

“I absolutely love being from Tacoma,” Paige said. “It’s my favorite place in the world. The reason why is it’s a community that gave back to me and now I’m in a position where I get to give back to my community through education.”

Paige brought his poetry expertise north for the Northshore Speaks event, but he is no stranger to working with students on their poetry. He most recently worked with students at Gonzaga University.

Clausen thanked Paige, Northshore Family Partnership teacher Leslie Connor and the Northshore Speaks Selection Committee in the event’s closing remarks and expressed his gratitude to Northshore community families for their role in the event and the impact student participation has.

“We also want to thank you, parents, for encouraging your students to speak up and share their student voices because it matters,” Clausen said.

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