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MPS Student Heads To New York City For Poetry Slam

Rachel Morello
Fourth grader Pashia Bowens and her America SCORES coach, Jennifer Taff.

April is National Poetry Month, and one Milwaukee student is celebrating in the Big Apple.

Ten-year-old Pashia Bowens, a fourth grader at LaFollette School on Milwaukee’s north side, is one of fifteen students from across the country selected for America SCORES National Poetry Slam. She’ll travel to New York City this weekend to participate.

America SCORES is a community outreach program that combines literacy instruction, service learning and soccer to engage urban students in character-building and healthy living. Milwaukee is one of thirteen cities within the national network. Programming is coordinated through the Milwaukee Public School district, the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club and other local foundations.

Jennifer Taff is LaFollette’s social worker at LaFollette, and has been working as a coach for LaFollette’s America SCORES program for three years.

“When you’re on the soccer field, it’s easy to get frustrated,” Taff explains. “Instead of being upset that someone hurt them, or becoming defensive, we have now facilitated an opportunity for them to articulate what they’re feeling.”

“[Literacy and math] sounds like an odd combination, but the kids…are just learning how to express themselves, and this was a really great supplementary outlet for them to pick up on that,” Taff says. “Not only has it been great for their social-emotional development, but it’s made them great leaders in the school building.”

Pashia has participated in America SCORES Milwaukee at her school since she was in first grade.

She wrote her first poem at age 5, about her grandma. She also writes about her siblings, her style and the view outside her bedroom window.

This year, Pashia won the regional poetry competition with an original piece. That’s what she’ll perform – in front of a crowd of about 175 – when she and Taff travel to New York. They will spend three days in the city, sightseeing, participating in poetry sessions and playing soccer in Central Park.

Although she is excited for the sights (and the New York pizza she’s heard so much about), Pashia says the best part is getting to travel outside of her hometown for the first time. She’s never been on a plane before.

And, she adds, she’s happy to be part of the America SCORES family.

“I get to express my feelings, and I can see how the world is outside of Milwaukee,” she says.

Pashia will perform her poem Monday night. America SCORES will livestream the event online, beginning at 6:00 CST.