—article by Camila Sotela

At the 2021 presidential inauguration, Amanda Gorman mesmerized our nation as a shining example of this truth: youth poetry is a force of nature. When we are left breathless and enthralled, we have a chance to follow this experience back home. This was the kind of performance that awakens within us a desire to be seen and heard through our own art and the creativity around us.

Art from Ashes has had the honor and the pleasure of serving more than 14,000 young people over the years, helping them see their creative genius through poetry when many have experienced judgement and derision. Although they have not had the honor of sharing the stage with presidents and dignitaries or performing in front of the nation—which thankfully has helped the world understand the power of young people and of poetry—they have performed before thousands in the community. And that has helped those of you reading this to understand the power and hope of youth voices. Multiple events across Colorado have featured the youth with whom we work—not to mention radio and TV appearances, some national, some international. While performance art is not listed as part of our mission, we do encourage AfA’s young participants to share their poetry to encourage marginalized youth to connect to their community and so that their communities can recognize how amazingly gifted young people are.

…when he does not know which words to speak, and yet knows there is something important to say.

One such youth is 20-year-old Tylan Jones, a young poet who navigates his complex reality through artistic expression and seeks to lead others along the same path. He has learned to write poetry when he does not know which words to speak, and yet knows there is something important to say. An article in the Colorado Sun by Tina Griego, who, according to our executive director, was instrumental in the inception of Art from Ashes, reveals how Tylan crafts a new day for himself through his poetry while acknowledging that the gravity of pandemic life weighs heavy on his spirit.

We are proud to have been part of Tylan’s journey since we met him at Endeavor Academy in 2016, and he has since been a frequent AfA guest poet and performer. We also are altered by his deeply introspective art. All the young people with whom we work have transformed us too, because of their courage and vulnerability.

This is the gift of poetry—this is a gift we wish to share with everyone.

So yes, it is of course true that not all young poets make it to a grand stage of a national event. You, however, can be part of the community that is the connection between the messengers of tomorrow and the manifestation of their dreams by listening to the young artists all around us, who reflect back to us the necessary, painful, and brilliant corners of who we all are.

Amanda Gorman



(all youth get paid an honorarium #artistsshouldbepaid)