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On May 31, 2019, the Police Athletic League (PAL) held its annual Poetry Jam, showcasing the winners of the PAL Arts After-School Program’s annual Poetry Writing Contest, at Affirmation Arts in Manhattan. This year’s theme and corresponding title of the 2019 Poetry Anthology is Identity. Dana Wheeler, PAL Director of Education and Program Development, said, “This is an exciting event because we see substantial growth in the students from the beginning of the year, and it allows us to celebrate and acknowledge their efforts in a beautiful space.”

Each year, PAL After-School Program participants, representing different cultural backgrounds, age groups and New York City neighborhoods, come together to express themselves through poetry. They skillfully use language, along with poetry-writing and public-speaking techniques developed through collaboration with Leigh Mills, Libby Mislan and Allan Bounville of the Community Word Project, to produce a look into their identity.

Placing an emphasis on creativity and the imagination, the annual Poetry Jam acknowledges the talent of children from PAL centers citywide. The winning poems were compiled in an anthology, featuring the original poetry and artwork of students across the five boroughs, including Brooklyn resident, Laylah.

Laylah, a third grader from PAL Breukelen Cornerstone, said, “My grandma made cupcakes with lemon frosting, but my favorite kind is chocolate. After I threw the lemon cupcake away, I had a nightmare.” Her poem, “Cupcake,” is featured in the anthology.

Once I had a cupcake with lemon frosting.

I threw it in the garbage then it came to haunt me in my dreams.

When I went to the living room to watch tv, I saw the cupcake army.

When my aunt came the cupcake was gone.

I told my aunt and she said “I was using my imagination.”

When she left I took a nap, I saw a cupcake

when I woke up my mom came and I told her what happened.

She said eat a candy bar.

I did.

My cupcake fear was gone then I had a candy bar every day at school.

– Laylah, 3rd Grade, PAL Breukelen Cornerstone

Following the presentations of featured works, the event concluded with the distribution of plaques acknowledging the artistic abilities of winning students.

New York City’s Police Athletic League is the first and finest civilian-run PAL in the country. Founded in 1914, PAL has served the city’s young people for over 100 years. PAL provides recreational, educational, cultural and social activities to 30,000 boys and girls annually. It is also the city’s largest, independent, nonprofit youth organization. For more information, please visit


Photo Caption:

Laylah, Brooklyn resident, winner of PAL 2019 Poetry Writing Contest

Photo Courtesy of Police Athletic League

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