2013 Writers’ Retreat at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall

On October 19th, more than 30 students along with their parents, teachers, Probation and IOW staff and special guests gathered in the Compound at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall for the final Writers’ Retreat of 2013. Retreats are held annually at each of the three juvenile halls where IOW has classes and provide an opportunity for students in different living units to come together as a community to celebrate their writing accomplishments. The Barry J. Nidorf Retreat is unique in that parents are allowed to attend.

 
Special guest Sal Masekela  opened the day, sharing the story of his journey from surfer to celebrity philanthropist. Sal is a commentator, journalist and producer best known for his work hosting the ESPN’s X games. The Power 106 Street Team, featuring DJ Medek-Eric Medrano and Tito Mora, kept the music rolling throughout the morning.
 

Sal Masekela with volunteer teacher Susan Cuscuna.

Sal Masekela with volunteer teacher Susan Cuscuna.

Unit by unit, the students shared their extraordinary writing. Students in the Compound are being tried as adults and many face long prison sentences. As they read their pieces, they expressed their fears, regrets, struggles and hopes. Some addressed their poems directly to their parents in the audience.
 
Luis Rodriguez, activist and author of Always Running and It Calls You Back, concluded the program with words of inspiration and encouragement. Luis has won national recognition as a poet, journalist, fiction writer, children’s book author and critic. Currently, he is working as a peacemaker among gangs on a national and international level. Luis also helped launch Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, a mulitarts, multimedia cultural center in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Students were presented with signed copies of Luis’ It Calls You Back.
 

-Wendy Gough Soroka

 

Luis Rodriguez signed copies of his book for students.

Luis Rodriguez signed copies of his book for students.

Retreat Sound Bites

 
Disconnected
 
Everything about me has evolved
I am not the person
I once was
Yet my charges remain stained
So how will you tell?
The boy who got arrested
Did not exist anymore
Disconnected
From the outside world
Forgotten
And left in a box
Almost like the people I hurt
The world moves on
& hardly notices I’m gone
Taken away in handcuffs
Before I left my mark
Haunted by mistakes
I will never outlive
Making my new home
Cold
Alone in the dark
 
-DiAnjei
 
To read more of the pieces read at the 2013 Writers’ Retreat at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, please check out Voices from the Compound.
 
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