By Greg Gelpi
Doing battle with words and laying down rhymes, students at Morrow High rap their way to better grades and better spirits. The Morrow High Rhythm and Poetry Club (RAP) has mixed the world of classics like Keats and Dickinson with that of modern poetry like Eminem and 50 Cent.
"It's just an adrenaline rush when I get up on stage," Willie Thomas, the club's reigning microphone commander, said. "Every time I get home I dream about what I want to do and this is it."
Thomas, a freestyle artist, said that when the school year began he often got challenged to fights. The constant barrage of fight challenges dragged him down, but rather than succumbing to violence he turned to rapping.
"It was coming down to the point that I was getting depressed," Thomas said.
The club allowed him to express himself vocally in a constructive way, relieving stress and giving him hope for the future, he said.
Since club sponsor and second-year teacher Hollis Ball began the club last year, RAP members have raised grades, raised spirits and raised awareness of poetry. One of his students was failing class, but turned around after joining the club, he said.
At Wednesday's RAP Poetry Slam, members of the club recited their written pieces as well as performed freestyle poetry. Judges awarded the best poet, LaToija Dawkins, with a rhyming dictionary to foster her passion for writing as well as the title of Commander of the Microphone.
"I just gather all of my thoughts together and infuse them into something meaningful," Dawkins said.
Before joining the club, she stuttered when she spoke and couldn't read in front of groups, but the club empowered her to recite her work in front of groups and gave her the confidence to express herself, she said.
"It helped me with my self-esteem," Dawkins said. "I can now talk freely in front of the group."
Another Morrow RAP freestylist says the poetry club helps him in class.
"When you sit down and think about something, it increases your vocabulary," freshman Cameron Swain said. "I feel like I'm getting something off my chest."
Morrow RAP will conduct a larger Poetry Slam in the spring, Ball said. In that slam, poets will recite their work to the sounds of music.