FOX 4 Young Achiever finds power in poetry

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RAYTOWN, Mo.  -- April is National Poetry Month. And all over America the past few weeks teenagers have been performing their poetry in competitive events called "slams."

In local slams this year, this week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever emerged as a powerful wordsmith and presenter, giving voice to his own dreams and concerns and to those of many other urban teenagers.

He is poetry in motion. Performing his own deeply intimate and revealing poetry on the stage of Raytown High School, FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever Will Adams defies easy descriptions and stereotypes and expectations.

"People think, 'Oh, he's your average black kid, plays basketball, messed around and had a son,'" said Will of the usual view people have of him.

"For his age he's incredibly reflective," said Raytown High School English teacher Marlee Stempleman who coaches Will in his poetry. "He's one of those hidden gems."

"Poetry was something that I've always been good at and something that people always urged me to keep doing. As I got more serious about it lately, it's been something that I can't help but do," Adams said.

"He has really great command of language," said  Stempleman. "When he writes and speaks, you believe him and then you want to listen."

Will's poem titled Letter to Will Christopher is a message to his infant son on the relationship Will hopes they have as the little boy grows into manhood. It's also Will's brutally honest self-assessment of his own failings and weaknesses and fears.

"My objective in poetry is to not only release how I'm feeling but to relate back to other people," said Will, "and let people know we as young kids are aware and that we do see the issues and we're not blind to what's going on."

Will has found in his poetry not only a creative way to express his intellect and his emotions but also a positive outlet for his competitive spirit. He is in the spotlight at Raytown High now not so much for the basketball he once played with talent and drive but as a strong leader of the school's successful Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam team.

Will and the others on the team perform their own poetry at competitive events as individuals and as a group and advanced very far in this spring's metropolitan area competition.

"That competitive piece, I think, for Will, just pushes him to revise more and to practice more and to want to write more," said Stempleman.

"I've built a little family from poetry," said Will, "people that I know that I can trust, that I know that I can call and we can talk about our issues and there won't be any judgment."

Will says writing and performing poetry has given him focus and motivation to succeed in life to succeed as a mentor to younger poets and especially to succeed as a father.

"At first," said Will, "it was like, 'Why do I want to do this?' Like, 'This is not what I want to do. I don't want to get up and tell everybody my business.' But now I see it less as everybody knowing my business and more as me sharing my story." And what a story that is.

Students from Paseo High School in the Kansas City, Missouri School District finished as the top team in the metro area Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam competition this spring. Local winners are invited to Philadelphia, Pa. in July to participate in the Brave New Voices national poetry slam.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.

Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX  4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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