'They deserve to be heard’: Poetry project gives a voice to English language learners

Updated: Apr. 23, 2019 at 4:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Farrington High School student Jalen Espejo wrote a poem about leaving the Philippines to live in Hawaii.

It’s a happy and sad story.

"It was really hard for me coming here because I had to leave my mom and family and friends behind," he said.

Espejo's writing is part of a collection called "Voice: Poetry by the Youth of Kalihi."

The school published a book that contains 52 poems. The 52 students who wrote them are in various stages of learning English.

Farrington’s language learner teachers believed a poetry project would help students express themselves.

"To see the work that they created and to know that the time and the energy and the effort that has gone on behind it, I'm just really proud," teacher Ellie Kantar said.

Most of the poems are in English, but parts of them are in the student’s native language.

“Even language learners who are often under-represented or misunderstood, they have things to say. They deserve to be heard,” English teacher Norman Sales said.

Wojila Chutaro came here from the Marshall Islands. She wrote poems about love and those dearest to her.

"About my family, about my mom," she said.

During the writing process, published poets and writers offered feedback to help the students. The school then self-published the poems into the book.

"I didn't really think of me being an author and a poet," Espejo said.

Starting Friday, “Voice” will be available on Amazon at $5 a copy. Proceeds will help Farrington’s English Language Learner program with future projects.

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