All the students agree that their work helps to encourage teens with problems, provides therapy,and shows a positive side of East Cleveland.
By RHONDA CROWDER
Today’s teens are faced with an enormous amount of challenges within their homes as well as communities. Too many are finding themselves trying to overcome everything from physical and drug abuse to just trying to survive.
And, discovering positive ways to cope becomes an even bigger obstacle.
But, for a group of juniors and seniors attending Shaw High School in East Cleveland, understanding and dealing with these issues is becoming much easier since a young man named Ronald Bailey entered their lives.
Bailey, program director for T.R.I.L.L. Forever (True Relations in Life Last Forever), along with Teionna Sharp, started a group referred to as Silent Whisper. They write as well as perform poetry to help and encourage other teens dealing with the same problems. They settled on the name Silent Whisper because they believe… “If you stay silent, you can hear the heart speaking.”
They also wrote and performed a play titled, “The Counselor,” that’s been staged before a sold out crowd at the East Theatre in addition to venues in neighboring communities such as Shaker Heights.
And with the money raised from their ticket sales along with a few donations, they’ve published a book of short stories and poems, titled “Silent Whisper.” It will be available around the end of February.
Every student in the group contributed to the book and, in their writings – be it poetry or prose, they address life and issues such as suicide, physical abuse, drugs, and alcohol.
“Sometimes, you can’t always hold everything in,” said Silent Whisper member Tanautica Bush, 17. “We just want to express ourselves through our life stories, let our peers know you can make something good out of every situation.”
Sharp, 16, said she helped start the group after a teacher discovered her interest in poetry. She connected with Bailey and they started performing together, then began recruiting other students.
Bailey, a 2001 graduate of Shaw High School, experienced a rough life growing up; absent father, drug-addictive mother. In school, he was categorized as a child with learning disabilities.
As a result of feeling loveless, he started to hustle and gamble.
“I made a promise to God, if I ever made it out of this community, I would come back and give back to the community of which I’m a product,” he said.
He went on to attend Bowling Green. Although he only planned to attend for one year, he completed his first time and gained a new perspective on life. He ended up going to Gannon University on a football scholarship and went on to graduate with a BA in criminal justice and a minor in behavior specialists.
In addition to his work with T.R.I.L.L Forever, he goes into schools, teaching curriculum and motivating others. But, most importantly, he’s a major source of inspiration to these Silent Whisper Poets, who all maintain above average grades. A few even touted having 4.0 and higher G.P.As.
Gabrielle Miller, 17, said she connected to Bailey after hearing his story of trials and tribulations. “It made me open up and open up to others about who I am and what I’ve been through,” she said.
Brandon Ferguson, the only college student in the group, considers Bailey like a coach. “Once I got to know him, he was like the real deal.” Bailey’s being from the same neighborhood and introducing the students to more than what they see on a daily basis, inspired Ferguson.
“He motivated me to be a part of something good,” he said.
Chardae’ Watkins, 19, said she was just happy somebody came back to help and is doing so for free. “He’s a great mentor, a male role model. I love him and this group a lot.”
Ciera Bruce, 17, was initially drawn to group by the poetry. She’s been writing poems as long as she could remember. But, the other student’s interactions with Bailey kept her around. “He seemed like a father. It’s bigger than the group. It helps us to not judge people.”
Tamara Harris, 17, said the group helps her realize that everybody has problems, but there’s always somebody worse off.
All the students agree that their work helps to encourage teens with problems, provides therapy, and shows a positive side of East Cleveland. When discussing the current state of East Cleveland, one student said, “The image isn’t good but if you look deep inside, it’s some good stuff going on.”
All the students promised to come back and give back to the community after pursuing their individual academic aspirations. But for now, they enjoy performing and spending time with each other.
Eighteen-year-old Ju’Juan Johnson loves the camaraderie among the group. “For me, I like how everybody came together like a family. We work together.”