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Third Grade Poetry Slam Builds Kids' Confidence

[SPOKANE, Wash.]  From the sweet: “Benny likes to snuggle. He likes to hide under my sink, so I can’t give him a huggle;” to the silly: “It is weird that you have a beard;” to the aspirational: “Don’t give up on yourself. Keep trying;” no matter what form it takes, poetry can be inspiring. 

“Poetry has no boundaries, no limits and no rules that allow kids to express themselves, their ideas and feelings,” said Derek Mullin, a third-grade teacher at Stevens Elementary School, part of Spokane Public Schools. “Growing up in a poverty home, I always wanted to be exposed to the arts: music, theater, art and poetry. But that was not a focus back then in school. So, when I became a teacher, I wanted to inspire students to be exposed to poetry.” 

A new generation of third graders from Stevens will be flexing their writing muscles at Spokane Community College’s third annual Third Grade Poetry Slam on February 22 from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM in the college’s Sasquatch Conference & Event Center in Building 6.  

The event will be put on by SCC’s “Speak Out!” Communications Club. Around 50-60 elementary school children participate in the slam with 50-60 SCC students volunteering to assist the kids on a rotating basis throughout the course of the day. This year, “Speak Out!” chose “Be Brave” as the event theme. Some writing prompts will be centered around the theme, while others can be about animals or the third graders’ names.
“In my heart, I feel these kids need this, and it’s something I can give to them,” said Trinity Topp, the vice-president of “Speak Out!” “I’m so proud to be a part of this.” 

The poetry slam started around 13 years ago when a former “Speak Out!” president was volunteering at Stevens and found value in the program, connecting Stevens and SCC to create a slam at the college. 

“Through this, students learn to collaborate and work with others to enhance writing and creativity,” Mullin said. 
The kids and SCC volunteers become fast friends, according to Ryan Lancaster, the media and marketing director for Spokane Public Schools, who was at last year’s slam. 

“[The SCC students] got down to the kids’ level and gave up on the idea that they needed to be the big kid and just had fun,” he said. “As the day went on, it was fun to see the third graders draw out the college kids and vice-versa.” 

One of the motivators for holding the slam at SCC is so that the elementary schoolers can see the college firsthand.  

“Working together helps make college a reality to students who would not think it possible without this exposure,” Mullin said.  

Amy Anderson, the co-advisor for “Speak Out!” and a SCC communications studies instructor, said Stevens teachers seem to be grateful to have their classes participate in the experience. 

 “They enjoy bringing their students out to learn more about these topics. They’re glad to have the opportunity for students to see a future in higher education,” she said. “The kids say what a great day it was and how they want to go to SCC.” 

“Speak Out!” helps the students feel motivated and welcome by putting together a care package that includes folders with pencils, activities, coloring pages and paper as well as a Brave Cookie Award – cookies that say “Be Brave” on them – according to Topp. The program’s theme usually incorporates a familiar movie; last year’s diversity and inclusivity theme featured Encanto. This year’s “Be Brave” will showcase the Disney movies Brave and Luca

“I think this is one of the best things that SCC does,” Topp said. “I think it will make a huge impact. And they get to have that college feeling. I hope to see them here one day.” 

Anderson said the ultimate “goal is helping the kids.” 

“It gives them an opportunity to express themselves, share about their lives and practice public speaking,” she said.  

Lancaster said the slam built up the third graders’ confidence, “They shared and got excited about it. Some you could see were very proud with what they produced. The kids who don’t have much confidence come out of their shell to read poetry. It was one of the best parts of the day.” 

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Rachel Román at, Amy Anderson at or Linda Seppa-Salisbury at

CCS provides education and services in a six-county region of Eastern Washington, operates Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College and is the largest provider of Head Start and Early Childhood Education in the region. Each year, nearly 30,000 people – from infants to senior citizens – are provided educational services by CCS.

Posted On

1/27/2023 7:41:10 AM

Posted By

Rachel Román



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