The SFIS Spoken Word Program serves as a creative outlet for students interested in writing. It was founded by Timothy McLaughlin almost a decade ago in connection with a network of writing-related programs collectively intended to increase student proficiency with language and encourage positive student expression. The Spoken Word Program empowers students to create original poetry, which incorporates Native languages and philosophies, and then perform that poetry for diverse audiences. This work contributes to the overall SFIS mission of developing future leaders for Native communities as team members practice skills of thinking, writing, cooperating, and presenting.
SFIS Spoken Word Team members must take the school’s creative writing course to train in fundamental writing skills and develop their creative vision and voice. On campus, the team hosts bi-annual Arts Fest events that feature student performances of poetry and many other art forms. Team members also perform their writing at various locations in Santa Fe, surrounding areas, across the nation, and even internationally.
At the heart of the Spoken Word program are several immersion travel experiences: the San Francisco Writing Exchange, the Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Festival (held in a different US city each summer), and the Baltic Cultural Exchange in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Through all these performances both near and far, the Spoken Word Team members operate as youth storytellers who utilize the modern art form of spoken word poetry to share indigenous knowledge, philosophies, and perspectives with people of all backgrounds. Fully 100% of the program’s graduates have moved onto higher education, often concentrating in creative writing. More importantly, the young people who engage in this work of creating and sharing authentic art through written and spoken word engender an increased self-confidence and self-awareness, a wider sense of the world, and a refined ability to present orally, all of which will serve them well in life and, by extension, benefit their home tribal communities.