Dear Friends of Urban Word:
My name is Sergio Jimenez, Urban Word’s Office Manager. In 2012, when I was just a sophomore in high school, my English class attended an Urban Word Teen Poetry Slam at The Point in the Bronx (my hometown!). I remember hearing the young poets, and most importantly feeling the power of their stories, many that sounded like my own. Not only was I inspired, but I was also compelled to try it out for myself.
In the following year, I attended writing workshops packed with students, open mics and readings representing the many voices of our city, and I even made it to the Grand Slam Finals at The Apollo Theater where I won the opportunity to represent Urban Word nationally at Brave New Voices in San Francisco. It was a phenomenal experience, to hear thousands of supporters cheering for a little guy like me, a young high school student seeking validation in a world that oftentimes made opportunities like these difficult to obtain.
Every week, I was driven to keep coming back, strengthening my writing, building productive healthy friendships, and knowing that there was a community to escape to when the world I lived in became too toxic. Urban Word became my second home, and every year there was another opportunity, experience or milestone for me to participate in. Here is where I grew to become a leader (as a part of the Word Wide Youth Leadership Board), a mentor to young poets behind me, where I learned performance skills and stage presence, office skills, event and music production, professional networking skills, how to serve my community, and even marketing – all youth-centered and youth-led.
The development that I gained as an Urban Word participant, as well as the experiences and opportunities they crafted for me and my peers have impacted my growth as a young adult. Now as a staff member, I have even more respect for the work of this organization.
As a student, my experience was life changing, monumental and motivational; but what I learned when I joined the staff team was that there are thousands of New York City youth each year who receive this same level of service. Other achievements that I learned about is that Urban Word:
Urban Word also runs a national program, The National Youth Poet Laureate Program, that identifies and honors the top young poets in 41 cities across the country who are committed to artistic excellence and social justice…and just this last year alone, our work was celebrated at The White House, the Poetry Foundation, and the Library of Congress.
As I grow into adulthood, I know one thing for sure: I will continue building the Urban Word legacy so that we can positively impact every young person who walks through our doors, so that the next generation of young people can have the same fulfilling experience that I was offered.
Here’s where you come in. We need your commitment to the kid that I was, and the person that I have become. Your tax-deductible donation ensures that Urban Word can keep thriving, by providing safe spaces for writing workshops and mentorship, and hosting the most important literary events and performances in the country.
At a time when platforms for youth voices are constantly threatened, arts and leadership programs are being cut, and places where young people can find community are becoming more and more difficult to come by – we need your support now more than ever.
Thank you for reading my journey, and hope to see you at the slam on April 14th!
With thanks and optimism,
P.S. Feel free to call the office, I’m usually the first one picking up the phone, and I can tell you more about my experience with Urban Word NYC!