BHS Students Read, Engage, and Come Together at Chelmsford High School

Members of the BHS Tenacity Challenge team and students in Poetic Ramblings spent this past Monday afternoon listening to National Poetry Slam Champion, author, and educator Clint Smith speaking about the themes in his debut poetry collection Counting Descent. After working with the Chelmsford High School English Department at our annual Student Day of Poetry, CHS extended an invitation to Burlington and welcomed us into their performing arts center for the event. We are truly grateful that CHS’s collaborative spirit and strong commitment to educating all students brought about this opportunity.

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Chelmsford High School partnered with the Chelmsford Public Library to bring Smith to the town as part of their year-long civic participation program in which the Chelmsford Public Library encourages community members to read, engage, and come together (REACT) for civic action. CPL highlighted Clint Smith’s collection, along with Angie Thomas’s YA novel The Hate U Give, as one of the books that Chelmsford residents were asked to explore during the library’s January/February REACT focus on racial justice.

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At CHS, Clint Smith told stories about his parents dancing in the kitchen. He discussed his new understanding of childhood memories reframed after the death of Tamir Rice, his understanding of his father’s fear at a young Smith playing with a Super Soaker in public. He read his poem “Letter to Five of the Presidents Who Owned Slaves” and encouraged students to seek complete stories instead of relying on limited narratives that present a single accepted perspective. He talked about how his “jump-shot be gluten-free” as a way to discuss how expectation can shape identity. Students left feeling inspired to speak, not only about what directly impacts them, but also about what they see in the world that impacts the paths of those around them. They left ready to pen their own poems and to put words out into the world.

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Thank you to Abbey Dick, Chelmsford’s ELA Department Coordinator, and Lisa Parato and Nancy Arena, CHS English teachers, for reaching out to us and for extending this opportunity to BHS students.

Shannon Janovitz