Youth and the Mighty Pen

Clara Chin, Staff Writer

A common stereotype manifests that teenagers don’t care about what’s going on in the world.

Proving this stereotype wrong are Zariya Allen, Belissa Escobedo, and Rhiannon McGavin, three high school teenagers whose poem “Somewhere in America” placed third in the International Youth Poetry Slam. They also performed this powerful social issue poem at the Hollywood Bowl opening for John Legend in front of an audience of 17,000 people. The poem has now gone viral on social media and news sites. With their mastery of language, the three girls call attention to the elephants in the room of U.S. society and prove that teenagers can make a difference.

The video of their performance has been shared, retweeted, and reblogged across all types of social media websites. West High School Students have been buzzing about the performance too, admiring their dynamic poetry and finding new insight about American society.

“I thought it was a creative way to express all that is wrong with the American school system and how teens and children are brought up,” said Jake Bernstein (9). The poem “Somewhere in America” brought up important issues like book banning, problems in the education system, and economic disparities for teenagers.

“The poem brought to light a lot of lessons that we usually don’t talk about in our daily lives but are enormous problems. If we don’t begin to address these, it will be harder to make a difference,” said Grace Qian (12).

  This is exactly what Allen, Escobedo, and McGavin accomplish with their poetry. Teenagers can’t vote, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned about the future. Our generation will inherit all the existing problems in America, so it is highly important that someone tries to take action. If teenagers can’t take action with a ballot, they can write moving poetry and spread the word about important issues.

Initially, Zachary Jicha (10) said, “I’d never think teens would be interested in poetry, or that people would be interested in hearing a live poetry performance.” But with their poetry videos receiving over 2 million views, Jicha changed his mind. Like Qian, who said the girls are “making a difference in society by empowering other teens,” Jicha felt inspired by the video.

Allen, Escobedo, and McGavin are part of an organization called Get Lit, an organization for improving teen literacy. To watch the Get Lit performance and interview on The Queen Latifah Show, visit They are also Youth Poetry Ambassadors of Los Angeles. To see civic duty poetry by Allen, Escobedo, and McGavin, and the other teen ambassadors, visit