Chicago English teacher inspires students with Amanda Gorman poetry

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago English teacher Rory Dolan is encouraging his students to find their voice through poetry written by women of color. His curriculum currently focuses on poet Amanda Gorman.

"My mom taught me how to do poetry really young, maybe fourth or fifth grade. So I started there, just writing silly poems about what's going on around the house," said Indigo Smith, a senior at Simeon Career Academy.

Smith said poetry has been an outlet for her for years. She said ever since she witnessed Amanda Gorman's remarkable inauguration performance, Gorman has been a poet Smith looks up to.

"I feel like this really set the tone for, like, a hopeful tone. It was very powerful message, and I think something the youth could relate to more than you think," said Smith.

The teen and her peers have taken a deeper dive into Gorman's work because of Dolan's curriculum.

"Poetry is kind of a medium that allows, kind of like, it's less rigid, and there is kind of more space for students to represent themselves in more creative ways rather than just the standard essay writing or short responses," Dolan said.

Dolan makes it a priority to teach his students about poets of color. This year they're focusing on Gorman.

"We're trying to find a way to bring that positive new air so we can lift ourselves up. Not just through words but also in the way we feel about ourselves," he explained.

Smith said she thinks the most important message from "The Hill We Climb," which was the poem Gorman performed at President Biden's inauguration, is the distinction between America's great opportunities and its faults.

Smith said it's important to learn about poets like Gorman in order to inspire young students of color.

"I think there is, like, a saying or something that says,' If you see it, you can be it.' And I think that promotes people to strive to feel like they can become something like that," Smith said. "They can reach heights like that. They can go places and reach people and speak to others and really be heard."

Yukare Nakayama is a Community Journalist at ABC 7 Chicago. She tells stories on the West Side of the city in neighborhoods like Pilsen, Little Village, North Lawndale and Austin. Nakayama also covers the north shore suburbs such as Highland Park and Highwood. If you have a story to share in these neighborhoods, send an email to Yukare.X.Nakayama@abc.com
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