For Club member Chris, poetry is a coping mechanism. He uses it to express his feelings, but he also hopes that when he performs his poetry, he can connect with people.

“What inspired me to write my poem, ‘Rooted in Joy,’ is that when people go through a hard time, sometimes they can't see that they can still experience joy,” Chris, 13, said. “I want my poem to show that joy is expressed through sorrow. In order to experience joy, you need accept that sorrow.”

Chris’ poem, which he wrote as part of BGCC’s writers’ collective, a group of Club members who write and perform poetry, has already won him a few accolades for his work. He most recently competed in the annual Chicago poetry festival, Rooted and Radical, being one of 20 finalists out of all of Chicago’s young poets.

“I have a way with words, and I feel proud that I get to say those words out loud and connect with strangers,” Chris said. “I don’t know their experiences, but I hope that this poem can help them. If they are going through a bad day, I hope this poem can bring them joy.”

Chris also placed second in his age group in the Performing Arts category through Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Arts Contest, a competition between all 5,000+ Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

Chris was not the only BGCC member who competed in the National Arts Contest. Several members from multiple Clubs participated in the annual competition, submitting digital art pieces, drawings, paintings and sculptures. In total, BGCC had 25 art pieces submitted from six different Clubs.

“To have so many kids excited to not only express themselves creatively, but to be recognized for their amazing work is truly inspiring,” BGCC’s Arts Manager Kortnee Quiza said. “These outlets are so important for our kids to creatively express themselves with whatever tool they want. We are so proud of all of them and the hard work they put into their pieces.”

Chris said he will continue to work on his poetry, even as he gets busy when he goes to high school next year.

“There are a lot of issues going on in the news,” Chris said. “I feel like poetry and journaling is a healthy coping mechanism that can help you feel better and remember to experience joy.”

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