Spark has been ignited once more for Get Lit team

Mirabelle Chernick

Richard Mendiola
Get Lit member Justin Dumindin recites a poem during the Poetry Slam assembly on April 12 in the MPR.

The bell rings. While much of the school enjoys a leisurely lunch, four poets dash to Room 14 for yet another rehearsal. The poets chatter away sharing their newest ideas and inspiration while hands clench a pen and notebook, desperately aching to write it all down.

“Through writing I’ve found that students are connected to their lives in unique ways, learning about themselves,” sponsor and English teacher Ron Baer said. “They are growing as writers and as young adults, thinking about what they care about in this world and that’s a really special opportunity to be with students like that where I don’t get anywhere else.”

On April 26, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School’s annual Get Lit team will take the stage once again at the 7th Classic Slam. The quarter and semi finals will be held on April 26-27 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. If successful, the team will then compete in the finals on April 28 at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel.

The Get Lit Words Ignite program aims to promote teen literacy in Los Angeles by providing an outlet for young people to share their stories, beliefs and hopes about the stark realities of everyday life. Through the Classic Slam, poets are provided a safe and accepting place to speak their minds while, at the same time, battling other poets in a competitive arena. Nearly 100 schools in Southern California compete for the championship title.

The students’ performances include a classic poem and an original response. Poems will often go through dozens of edits along with the choreographed gestures and movements.       

The team initially began preparations in late January with regular lunch meetings consisting of an improvisation warm-up and performance rehearsals in which the poets critique one another and discuss how they can improve for the following meeting. As the Classic Slam rapidly approaches, the team is vigorously rehearsing every day after school for an hour and a half in addition to the daily lunch meetings.    

“Get Lit has helped me to grow as a person, writer, performer and thinker,” junior Emely Felix said. ”It’s an experience I’ll always treasure.”

This year’s team is comprised of third year Get Lit veteran Felix as well first-time performers juniors Kirsten Cintigo, Justin Dumindin and Rudraj Koppikar. Most recently, sophomore Andi Mendoza volunteered to join the team on April 12, a mere two weeks before competition.

“Each poet has their individual strengths and, when put together, the group becomes one cohesive unit,” said Baer, who hopes the team makes it at least to the semi-finals.

While Felix is the heart of the team, its emotional core Cintigo excels at heeding critiques along with providing it to others. Dumindin stands out through his incredibly unique voice and through his spoken word poetry, brings sensitivity and grace to the team. Koppikar’s ingenuity lies within his understanding of language, of how words and the sounds of words can bring beauty to poetry.

“People are writing about things in their life that are really personal,” Baer said. “Finding a way for them to show their heart, their soul on stage isn’t easy for anyone and so my job to try to get them there is extremely challenging.”