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Stamford Student Finds His Voice At Poetry Slam At Rippowam

Grade 8 Rippowam student Derrick Charleus and teacher Deirdre Crouch.
Grade 8 Rippowam student Derrick Charleus and teacher Deirdre Crouch. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Derrick Charleus drew upon a tough few years of elementary school as the inspiration for his poem "Bridgeport," which he performed Friday in a poetry competition at Rippowam Middle School in Stamford.

"It was really hard for me and being bullied because people don't really care about you and they just want to bully you on your flaws," Derrick said. 

He was one of about four dozen eighth-graders who participated in the second annual Poetry Slam at Rippowam on Friday.

Deirdre Crouch, an eighth grade language and literature teacher, said Derrick's poetry was the successful result of the encouragement the students received this year in a class where they dug into their own lives to create works of art. 

"They have a story to tell and they just need a venue in which to tell it," Crouch said about the competition. "They are incredibly bright, and they are very energetic."

Many of the students were initially reluctant about poetry this year, she said.

"They came into fourth quarter, I think, not wanting to do poetry. Poetry has a bad name for itself," she said. "We told them it wasn't going to be their grandmother's poetry. We were going to make it contemporary, and they embraced it and just ran with it beautifully."

Although others may have been reluctant, that wasn't the case with Derrick.

"I jumped right into it because I came out of a musical background," he said. "I think it was very easy for me to jump right into poetry because poetry is nothing more than rap without the music." 

Charleus was born in Stamford and moved to Bridgeport as a child before moving back to Stamford about three years ago.

He is finishing his third year at Rippowam and is moving across the parking lot to the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering for high school.


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