During my last year of undergraduate studies in psychology at the New School University, I was fortunate to take a course offered by an innovative professor, which changed my life’s focus. This yearlong course entailed a thorough review of the origins of spoken word poetry, the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement, and other social movements using art-based strategies. We developed interactive lesson plans critically analyzing social constructs through the lens of mainstream Hip Hop and poetry. In the second semester, while critically analyzing the prison crisis, we improved our lesson plans in order to facilitate workshops with teenagers at Rikers Island Prison.
Working with incarcerated teens and being aware of the social inequities they face, I was determined to get involved. It was then I decided to become an English teacher. I recognized my passion for becoming an educator while talking with the teenagers one on one, facilitating theater games, writing poetry and discussing social inequities. They opened up to our class and appreciated our guidance. Most people would not find joy in working with teenagers in prison, but I felt a sense of purpose. After graduation I asked my professor, Bryonn Bain, to mentor me, and under his guidance I created and implemented workshops at several different facilities. Also, I have acted as a teaching assistant for his graduate courses at Long Island University critically analyzing the prison crisis and preparing the students to facilitate their own workshops for at-risk youth. Currently, I am student teaching at a progressive high school and implementing multi-modal practices in the classroom every day.