As James P. prepared to exit the Studio Theatre, he was bombarded by compliments which kept him standing in place – unable to move.
“You’re an inspiration,” said Daniela Grigioni, the Project Manager for the DCPS Office of Out-of-School Time (OST).
“I look forward to seeing you again in the future,” another education official said.
James could only thank them – one after another. And then, finally, exit the building.
About an hour earlier, he was one of the brightest stars of Beyond the Classroom, an event put on by the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) to celebrate after-school programs in the District.
Several of the nearly 100 youth-serving organizations attended the event, and participants from a few organizations got the opportunity to show what their programs have taught them. None of them, however, received a louder ovation than James, a seventh-grader at Raymond Education Campus.
He boldly recited his poem “World Peace,” which he had never performed on stage, for the approximately 100 people in attendance. All during the week, James had stood in front of his mirror at home practicing the lines and hand gestures. This made it seem, on Friday, like he had performed the poem hundreds of times.
Every word was said with passion, with force, and James’ voice never wavered.
James had been one of the afternoon’s stars well before reciting his poem. While waiting for the program to begin, DC Councilmember Tommy Wells approached James, asking him about DC SCORES.
After James explained the program's components, Wells joked, “Do you play soccer and write poetry at the same time?” Maybe that will be an added component in future years.
James played soccer for Raymond for three years, taking on the role of goalie the last two seasons. Before moving on to play basketball this year, he made sure to give advice to his friend who is taking over at his favorite position.
One of the things James told him was that offensive players will usually try to shoot to the far corner of the goal, so to be ready for that. James is excited to attend his former teammates’ next game this Thursday at Tubman Elementary School.
As for poetry, James plans on continuing to write and take his works on stage. He already has quite the resume. Last year, he impressed so well at the Poetry Slam!, he was invited to perform at the first annual DC SCORES Inspired Art Gala and also was one of two students to travel to New York for the National Poetry SLAM!
On Friday, DC officials such as Wells, and Kathy Lally and Shanita Burney of OST spoke about the importance of after-school programs in motivating students to become responsible leaders at their schools.
With one inspiring performance, James proved all their points.