Grace, Staten Island.jpg



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 Staten Island resident, Grace.

Grace, an eighth grader from PAL Port Richmond, said, “I was having a bad day when I wrote this and I didn’t have a vent buddy with whom I could share what I was feeling. The box is a figurative representation of how I concealed my emotions until I found my voice.” Her poem, “The Box and the Voice,” is featured in the anthology.

The Box and the Voice

She doesn’t speak about it,

She writes about it instead.

She doesn’t show anybody,

She puts it in the box instead.

She doesn’t like the box,

She puts it on the high shelf instead.

She doesn’t use her voice to express her frustration and anger,

She uses her utensil and her box instead.

Things weren’t getting better with just her box,

She needed her voice too.

Nobody would know how she was feeling,

Without her voice, until they did.

– Grace, 8th Grade, PAL Port Richmond

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:

Grace, Staten Island resident, winner of PAL 2019 Poetry Writing Contest

Photo Courtesy of Police Athletic League