Teenagers Find Their Voice Through Poetry

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It takes a lot of courage to step out from the crowd and express your innermost thoughts and feelings. It can be especially tough for teenagers -- and tougher still when those thoughts and feelings are expressed on paper for all the world to read.

This week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers have done it in a remarkable published book of their poems. Meet the Turner Troubadours.Students in the Troubadour Poetry Club at Turner High School know the world can be an awfully rough place, full of tragedies and grim challenges. They've experienced it themselves and watched their peers go through it. They also know the world can be a glorious place, with triumphs, friendships and successes. And as members of Troubadours, they write about it all -- in verse -- very candid and often very raw.

"These kids are so honest and they're willing to put everything on paper," says club adviser and sponsor Marlee Stempleman. "They take these great risks. And it's so authentic."

Stempleman and Jessica Kendall got the Troubadour Poetry Club going when they were teachers at Turner and still serve as advisers and sponsors to the group even though the two no longer work at Turner.

"My hope is that through Turner Troubadours, people will realize how amazing Turner students are," says Stempleman, "and also how many kids out there could really benefit from writing and from a club that allows a family to occur."

Students of all stripes and from diverse backgrounds at Turner have joined Troubadours. Some, like star journalism student Katie Dougherty, already were comfortable with words but found new skills.

"I feel like poetry has allowed me to be more free with the way I say things," says Katie.

Others, like standout athlete Peter Galindo, didn't think they could write well at all before Troubadours but joined at the urging of the teachers and surprised themselves.

"I got used to the idea I could write good pieces of literature," says Peter, " and I don't know what it did but it got my creative juices flowing and I enjoyed every minute of it."

"They've gained this voice and are able now to see these strengths we could see all along," says Stempleman.

The Turner Troubadours are now in their third year and this is a big year for the club with a major milestone. The group has just come out with a new book of their poems, If Ever the World.

"It's interesting," says Katie. "I never thought I'd be a published poet."

"It's beyond words, really," says Peter. "It's so great to be recognized for working hard."

With amazing introspection and openness, the young poets wrote incredibly personal accounts of heartbreak and loss. And also of love and joys and hopes and dreams. And as they found their voice in verse, the Turner Troubadours discovered a lot about themselves -- and each other.

"The most powerful thing that I got out of Troubadours you would think would be the writing but it's not," says Trigg Brewer. "It's the bringing people together. We're one big family. We all know who each other are and we all just expand off of that."

"I think that's been one of the most fantastic things is to see kids from all backgrounds come together, learn about each other, I think learn from one another," says Stempleman, "and then form a family of individuals they might not otherwise have spoken to. So that's pretty amazing."

A world through Troubadours' eyes.

The Troubadours will soon start meeting on a regular basis outside Turner High School and they are eager to bring in students from other metro area high schools to get started doing poetry, too. Meantime, their book, If Ever the World, is just about sold out already and the publisher is considering a second printing. Go to http://ifevertheworld.wordpress.com/ to get information on how to order the book and on connecting to the Troubadours.

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 Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.

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