Student has ‘write stuff’: Naugatuck senior wins multiple poetry honors

Naugatuck High School senior Jaida Taveras performed her own poetry at the Connecticut Arts Heroes Awards ceremony in Hartford on Sept. 1. Contributed

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — In a world where physical communication was curtailed and virtual communication was an inadequate substitute for about two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut Office of the Arts recognized inspiring poetry from a Naugatuck High School student.

The borough has made history with one of its own, Naugatuck High School senior Jaida  Taveras, being honored as the first Connecticut Youth Poet Laureate by the Connecticut Office of the Arts on March 5. She also placed third in the state Poetry Out Loud contest and first in the state Poetry Ourselves competition on March 16, according to Naugatuck High School English teacher and Poetry Out Loud co-advisor Jennifer Brennan.

Taveras was the school’s champion last year and finished second in the state for the Poetry Out Loud contest. The program involves memorizing and reciting professional poems in front of an audience. Poets are graded on their tone, volume and dramatic appropriateness, Brennan said.

Poetry Ourselves is a program for original student poetry writing and mentorship to develop poems. Poets such as Taveras work with professional poets to revise and practice performing their own poems.

There are poetry programs at the national and local level. At the national level, there is poetry for the arts and the national endowment for the arts. At the state level, there is the Connecticut Office of the Arts. Poetry Ourselves is in its second year and Poetry Out Loud has gone on for about eight years at Naugatuck High School, which is available for any public high school in the state, according to Brennan.

Taveras was sitting on her couch scrolling through the news when she saw an email notification pop up. She said she had to reread the email about five times because she was in shock.

“I feel honored about being selected. However, I do feel an enormous pressure. I have no frame of reference; Connecticut has never had a youth poet laureate. I am the blueprint for the rest of the youth poet laureates to come,” Taveras said. “I have a lot to prove as the first. I need to show people that poetry is important, moving, and inspiring.”

Traveras said she was selected as the state’s first due to her participation in poetry programs run by the Connecticut Office of the Arts since her freshman year.

Taveras said she stumbled into poetry but always had thoughts and ideas to share and found poetry as outlet to do so. Her poetry is inspired by the world around her and modern events, she added.

Naugatuck High School senior Jaida Taveras performed her own poetry at the Connecticut Arts Heroes Awards ceremony in Hartford on Sept. 1. Contributed

“I am sitting here being honored as a youth poet laureate, while people across the world are starving to death. It doesn’t sit right with me,” Taveras said. “So I write, and write, and write, in hopes of inspiring people to be the change they want to see in the world. I hope to inspire people to understand how different our experiences can be.”

Taveras said she’s been reciting poetry for the past four years as well as working on her diction, dramatic appropriateness and volume levels for Poetry Out Loud. She has been writing and workshopping poems the past two years for Poetry Ourselves through the state Office of the Arts.

“I received this title because I dedicated myself to my craft. I have spent hours writing poetry and performing,” Traveras said. “I sought out assistance in workshops and did my best to better myself as a writer. I put my soul into my writing.”

Traveras said she was filmed in an interview and an announcement a couple of weeks ago, which can be found on the YouTube channel, Poetry Out Loud CT. Taveras will be filmed with more poetry to share with the state in the upcoming weeks, she added.

Taveras is still finalizing her decision for higher education but is majoring in either pre-law or political science. She wants to be a constitutional lawyer, she said.

“My passion for justice consumes every part of me. My writing, my conversations, and my future professional career choice,” Taveras said.

Taveras said the one thing that she wants people to take away from her poems is to make people think.

“I want them to either hear my voice or read my poetry and think ‘I’ve never thought of this like that before’ I want people to be inspired to help others, to be aware of injustices, and to be the best version of themselves,” Taveras said. “I think as humans we are so self-centered, we forget that other people also struggle and have bigger issues than we do.”

Taveras said she has a book coming out in a couple of months as well that is being funded and published by the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Brennan said Taveras is amazing in how well spoken and effective she is in reciting poetry.
“She’s so intelligent and so poised and so thoughtful,” said Brennan, who is also her English teacher. “So rare.”

As Taveras got more involved in reading other people’s poetry, she understood how she could give voice and emotion to other people’s words, Brennan said.

“She speaks and she’s got this voice and she’s amazing,” Brennan said. “She’s a communicator, a listener, a speaker.”