The Young Griot Society is an organization focused on transformational youth development program. We admit students from the St. Louis region and all aspects of the program are free for participants. Students must be between the ages of 12 and 15 when they submit their application. Students also submit grades as part of the application process. Academics don't determine student eligibility, it just allows us to track their progress over time. Students are interviewed at their schools as the final part of the application process. You can find the application here.
Our Young Griots meet every Wednesday and every other Saturday for 2.5 and 3 hours respectively. During the sessions, our young griots engage in dialogue through readings, videos, socratic seminars, and with local guest poets and performers. Griots will put on two showcases (Winter & Summer) and have the opportunity to learn more about the rich, artistic landscape of St. Louis through different trips and events. Our program is year-round with a break in July and August.
Curriculum & Research
Only 22% of students in St. Louis score proficient or advanced in English and Language Arts compared to the state average of almost 50%. Both are unacceptable. Studies show that if students cannot read and write by the start of 4th grade, the future barriers to excellence are almost insurmountable. In most high schools, English teachers do not focus on grammar and sentence structure, grading more for comprehension. However, standardized tests focus heavily on grammar and sentence structure. English can be one of the weaker sections for students of color on the ACT, and according to a 2016 study, 56% of black students were enrolled in remedial courses.
Poetry can do so much for enhancing literacy in youth. With so many poetic styles, students are exposed to a wide variety of ways to write creatively. With poetry or any creative writing, the writer is allowed to break the rules, requiring the poet to know the rules. The meaning of a work of poetry can often be hard to uncover or differ depending on the readers experience. This allows readers to think more deeply about comprehension. Poets want to convey a very specific message making word choice essential. These aspects of poetry, when directed toward literacy, allow students to observe and master structure, engage deeply to understand, and discover new words to convey specific meaning.
Griots will use the texts below to anchor their development.
The Black Poets
A new anthology edited by Dudley Randall. The collection presents the full range of black American poetry, from slave songs to the start of the movement, to the present day. It includes lists of periodicals, records, tapes, and transcribed films which present the works of black poets.
The Poet's Companion
A brief guidebook that will be used by our griots to help contextualize aspects of poetry. We want our griots to break the rules of structural poetry by first understanding those rules.
The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry
A comprehensive collection of modernist poetry. Young Griots will use this anthology to review, critique, and build knowledge of various types of creative works.
Events & Showcases
Throughout the year, our Young Griots will attend open mic sessions across the region to observe the work of other seasoned artists in St. Louis. Students will also have the opportunity to attend special events and slam poetry competitions hosted in the region in addition to special, out-of-town trips to competitions.
Our Young Griots will host two major showcases each year. The Winter Showcase is the first showcase of the year which both allows our students to display what they've been working on, and it also allows YGS to induct its newest cohort of Young Griots.
The Summer Showcase is our final, celebratory event that wraps up the year for our Young Griots, again allowing them to showcase their talents and show their growth over the year in the program.