Founded in 1999, Oak Park and River Forest High School's Spoken Word Club has grown into the largest afterschool program of its kind, perhaps in the world.
Club membership draws from all levels of student achievement, though historically the majority of participants are students from College Prep and Basic level classes. Approximately 75% of Spoken Word participants are students of color (who only make up about 28% of the high school's general population). Spoken Word Club prides itself on being a place where students feel a sense of belonging. Alumni often speak about missing the sense of family Spoken Word Club provides. Any student who is willing to commit to the process is welcome to appear in the showcases.
Additionally, each year, an eight-person slam team competes in the Chicago Teen Slam (Louder Than a Bomb) along with 120 other area teams. The OPRFHS team has placed in the top five ten times, including six second-place finishes. Spoken Word participation and success has correlated with academic success, college readiness, and college acceptance. Nearly every member of our slam team has attended a four-year college; many earn scholarships largely because of their involvement with the Spoken Word program and the slam team. Former slam team members have attended the University of Chicago, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri, Maclester College, Wellesley College, Knox College, Barnard College, Boston University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison,the University of North Carolina, Syracuse University, Smith College, Hampshire College, Stony Brook University and the University of Michigan. Recently, one alumnus earned his M.F.A. in Poetry from Boston University, and another alumnus earned his J.D. from Northwestern Law School.
As you can see from our press links, one of our students was named the National Teen Poet Laureate for the Midwest and got to meet the Obamas, and our students have won national writing competitions nearly 15 times, including the two most prestigious: the ones sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and Princeton University. One of our slam team legends--Nova Venerable--who is studying pre-med at Loyola University, is featured in the award-winning documentary Louder Than a Bomb: http://www.louderthanabombfilm.com/.