To celebrate and explore the potential of student leadership, Teach For All is collecting and sharing stories from across the network and around the globe. When students LEAD, we all LEARN.

Teach For America

Boston Pulse Youth Poets Present at Alumni of Color Conference

Student Leaders
Jourbienthia Paul and Terell Rice
Adult Supporter
Tony (Anthony) DelaRosa
Age of Students
Middle School (7th Grade)

Please describe how your students exercised their leadership and the impact they had.

Jourbienthia and Terell are two student leaders in Boston Pulse, a youth spoken word poetry organization here in Boston, MA based on the successful paradigm "Indy Pulse" in Indianapolis. As student leaders, they co-facilitate sessions on "Empowering Student Voice through the Art of Poetry."

Boston Pulse hosts a community open mic series at Match Public Charter Middle School ( where students encourage other students in risk-taking, stretching beyond one's comfort zone, and ultimately empowering student voice. Recently, they were both chosen to present at the "14th Annual Alumni of Color Conference" hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Both student leaders co-facilitated a group of high school and middle school students from all over Boston through a session on "Intersectionality and Poetry." Jourbienthia was critical in using her voice to model and explain how poets engage their audience(s) in diverse ways (i.e.: using gestures, playing with sound and silence, and figurative language). This is crucial on how a poet communicates their work and makes it tangible and meaningful for their intended communities. In tandem, Terell also facilitated our Boston Pulse community engagement circle where everyone participating in our session uses their voice to express how our session impacted their lives.

What role did you play in supporting your students’ leadership?

As Founder and Executive Director of Boston Pulse, I continually support these student leaders by modeling what success in leading an arts-education organization looks like. This means practicing spoken word poetry regularly to ensure that I practice what I preach. For example, for our session on "Intersectionality and Poetry," I opened our session up with a poem to specifically send the message that everyone can participate in this work: teachers, tutors, parents and students. Our Director of Curriculum, Emmanuel Yeboah, shares his poetry as a form of modeling what we expect from their leadership.

Another way I support these student leaders is by ensuring that they lead parts of the poetry meetings every Wednesday. This can be in the form of our community circles and facilitating group culture and team building. This could also look like them modeling how to write or perform a spoken word poem.

Part of coaching these two student leaders is to constantly receive feedback from them, whether it's on "how to improve our curriculum" and/ or "how to improve the execution of our meetings and events."

In preparation for our session at Harvard, we practiced effective presentation and public speaking techniques. Normally, for middle school students this could be a daunting task, however both Jourbienthia and Terell rise up to the challenge every time. Their courage and charisma for this work is nothing short of inspiring.

What did you and your students learn in this activity that will endure beyond today?

Beyond today, Jourbienthia and Terell could tell anyone the importance of student voice, both in and out of the classroom. They could tell you how it is the untapped resource in their education. They could tell you how risk-taking is essential in building and strengthening one's own leadership skills, and how sharing one's own personal narrative can be terrifying but powerful at the same time.

One thing that I learned from these student leaders is that student voice matters more than we can imagine. It taught me how much work there is to be done, in bridging the character and identity gap in the US -- when students are not able to voice what matters to them.