Freshman Yami Centeno stepped out on to the gym floor, her paper clasped in her hand as the sounds of the freshman section yelling her name filled the gym.
She walked to the center, one foot in front of the other, until she reached the center. All the sound in the gymnasium subsided as Centeno swung the mic to her mouth, ready to recite her poem for the whole school.
“I was so nervous cuz with one hand I had to hold the microphone and the other I had to hold the paper,” freshman Yamileth Centeno said. “Besides that, it was really awesome cuz I’m used to talking to a lot of people” listen
As Centeno’s words began to echo throughout the gym, cheering emerged from many sections of the gym. Two weeks prior, the library was packed with students, their mouths curved from blank expressions into happy and cheerful smiles as they prepared to indulge in hours of poetry. More than 50 poets were a part of the annual Poetry Slam, all ready to present their works to the crowd. Throughout the day, tears were shed by audience members as well as the poets. Snaps and claps surged from the crowd in reaction to the performances in front of the mic.. When the finalists included Centeno in the handful of poets still in the competition.
listen “I was shook,” Centeno said. “ I was like ‘What? Are you sure?’I was really hyped about it because I first started off joining for the extra credit, and it turned out to be something deeper.”
Centeno emerged from her seat, a bright smile on her face as she stepped toward the stage with her second poem gripped in her hand.
“I didn’t think I would be nervous cause everybody knows I’m a loud person in class, (and) I’ve always been really energetic,” Centeno said. “But when I got up there, my voice started quivering so much (because) I was so shook. I was very shocked of how my voice sounded, ‘cause it sounded like I was about to start crying.” listen
After getting situated and placing her poem on the black stand in front of her, Centeno’s mouth began to recite her second poem to the audience. The crowd in the library fell silent.
“I remember waking up ready to fight with my mom because I knew she wasn’t a morning person,” Centeno recited. listen “It was 10:36 (and) at 11 we were supposed to be heading out for breakfast.”
The audience sat in complete silence as Centeno recounted the horrific day she lost someone important to her.
“(My mother) stayed in the bed due to her lack of energy,” Centeno recited. “I went back to my room and started watching YouTube videos.”listen
Laughter came upon the crowd as Centeno described the YouTube videos she watched
“I started hearing a panicked voice outside my room,” Centeno recited. listen “Confused, I slowly got up, found my sister on the phone in the kitchen only to tell me (my brother) stopped breathing.”
Centeno’s voice was the only sound in the room.
“My second poem was about losing someone,”Centeno said. “What inspired it was my nephew. He passed away a few months ago. Most of us have lost somebody in our lives. listen I know (everyone could) relate to the second (poem)”
Two weeks later at the prom assembly, it was time to determine the winner of it all. The winner would be judged by the volume of the crowd and the number of decibels recorded by an application on an iPad.
All at once, the gym was filled by screaming exploding from around the gym in support of the poets.
Once the yelling subsided, Mrs. London shouted out that Centeno had won. The announcement came as a surprise to the freshman class as a multitude of them raced down the bleachers, their feet stomping as they poured out into the gym to celebrate Centeno’s victory.
“I was surprised when (the freshmen) reacted at the prom assembly. When they said I had won, everybody came running (toward me). People I didn’t even know were running toward me,” Centeno said. “It was really cool knowing, at the end of the day, all the freshmen were there for each other.”listen
After many of the freshmen returned to the bleachers, Centeno twisted back around, her paper still clasped in her hand and her feet hitting the ground as she returned to one of the gym exits.
“I spread awareness to different topics,” Centeno said. “I’m really happy about (this) because these are topics I’ve always bit my tongue on or I felt like I shouldn’t talk about (and) I ended up talking about them with the whole school.”listen
As the poetry slam came to a close, the next part to the prom assembly came about.