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Words Unlocked is a month-long initiative that includes a seven-day structured poetry curriculum. Our practitioner-ready curricular materials, which include additional optional lessons, culminate with a nationwide competition for poetic works.

Far too many young people are locked up around the country. Through this initiative, we continue to ensure that their words are not.

Registration will open a few weeks in advance to initiative launch

2024 Theme



To change one's shape or form or appearance through often magical means; to undergo a noticeable change (for example, in character); to metamorphosize.

Teacher Resources

The semi-structured curriculum below is ready to be customized by teachers.  We have provided a suggested calendar that includes curriculum for 7 days and leaves the remainder of the month open for optional lessons and the creation, revision, and selection of poetic works for school-wide contests and anthology creation.

Adjusting to meet your students' needs is strongly encouraged.

If you need the below resources in PDF format, please email us at!

Lesson plans

Please note: Slides are in google format, but can be downloaded in .ppt. All slides for days 1-7 are included. All materials or handouts referenced are linked to in the individual google slides or teacher notes accompanying the slides.  To download the slides as Microsoft PPT, click here.

Weekly Challenges

We have optional lessons that can be used in addition to our structured 7-day curriculum.  These include lessons on poem structure, rhyme scheme, elegies, odes, concrete poems, and an additional lesson on metaphors and similes. .ppt available here.

2024 Calendar

Please note, the lesson days can be customized to best fit your school schedule.

23-24 Calendars (26).png

Words Unlocked Features

Listen to our 2021 Words Unlocked Podcast:

Listen on Spotify       Listen online

In 2016 a podcast was made by students participating in Words Unlocked:

Listen to the Podcast

In 2014, winners from our competition were featured on NPR:

Poetry Behind Bars: The Lines That Save Lives — Sometimes Literally 

(includes links to listen to several poems)

Words Unlocked Free Voices Of Young Offenders

2024 Winners
Theme: Shapeshift

First Place


Shapeshift Into A Boy


Joe Dale Sparks Campus, TX


I                          haven’t been feeling myself lately, and maybe IT’S all the drugs they gave

                           me, feeling like A failure, i’m not enough, want to shift into someone I can

                           truly love.
AM                     i delusional, is it a MASK for my sin? Trying to understand something I

                           can’t comprehend, is my mind just attempting to be part of the norm, the

                           only reason TO try to change my form.
TRAPPED         in a cage that does not fit my soul, my mind, they call it my body, but it

                           can’t be mine, my chest feels too heavy i can’t SEEM to conform, my

                           outsides all wrong, my insides torn.
IN                       my dreams i’m free, shapeshifted inTO something truly me, but when i

                           wake the cold reality comes crashing down, my sense of self is gone,

                           nowhere to BE found.
A                        bright light is just out of reach, there is SOMEONE i really want to meet, he

                           is funny and kind, and a bit of a geek, he’s loving and loved, perfect, while

                           i’m none of the above.  
BODY                takes control, says who I am, and who i am not, freedom slips away each

                           time i have it caught, depression is taking hold, wanting it all to end, if i

                           go, it’ll be over, but i can’t let them win.
THAT                word they call me, what is it?  Oh, right, girl. i’m supposed to wear

                           MAKE-UP and pearls, feminine thoughts and female parts, ignore the

                           looks, boys will be boys, so what if they think we’re all toys.
ISN’T                 it interesting?  We think SOMETHING is listening, we pray and we hope,

                           just one more way to cope, but i see the others, they’re like me,  I see how

                           they SUFFER bullied and hated, we feel so deflated.
MY                     misshapen body, deformed, too short, too long, i have gender dysphoria, a

                           constant reminder I was made wrong, i live in a house that isn’t a home,

                           they don’t accept me, I feel so alone.  
OWN                 it, admit it, my body will never truly change, I got dealt a bad hand, i’m sure

                           TO lose the game, hold on to this skin, it’s the only one i got, but i refuse to

                           WEAR it with pride, it’s mine, but it’s not.


Second Place



By Standingbear

Donald E. Long School, OR


I am a tadpole
swimming through my sentence

trying to grow legs so 
I can walk out of the courtroom
when the time is right.

Trying to grow arms so 
I can hug my family.

Now, I’m hopping from place to place
trying to find where I belong.


Third Place


Beautiful Sea


Juniper Hills, ID

I feel like the ocean open and wide,
       A lot of people wonder what’s hiding inside.
I turn into coral on the ocean floor,
       Home to all that I am living for.
People still wonder what’s down inside,
       But for some odd reason I still want to hide.
I feel like a swarm of jellyfish just moving by,
       If only I was human I would just say “hi.”
A lot about the ocean is live or die,
       for some people it may make them cry.
I am now a fisherman just floating by,
       I catch a big fish and I ask the question, “Man, what’s hiding inside?”

Highly Commended 

The Answer

By T.P.

Slate Canyon, UT

Life is peaceful, but I often feel angry and alone.
Learning is boring, but philosophy and curiosity are enticing.

First, I sit and think all day with nothing to think about except thoughts.
Then I wonder,
                           “What’s out there?”
                                          “Why am I born just to die?” 
                                                       “To be so irrelevant?”
                                                              “Sometimes even miserable.”

Then I found The Bible and know I have hope. 
I have a future besides death. 
I have an answer to my anger, to my hate.

This answer is love and patience. 
Now I know that no matter what I do,
If I just have hope and love,
                       “It will be okay in the end.”


Highly Commended 

I Am

By Juanita K.

Bucks County Youth Center, PA

I am clay.
A round, soft, mound waiting to be shaped, 
Thrown on a pedestal, spun round and round.
I start to take shape by warm, caring hands.
Slowly and sincerely they shape me with love. 
I’m made high and full, beautiful to behold. 
But not to them, wasn’t I good enough? 
Years to make me, one move to break me. 
Splat! There I go, flattened once more. 
I don’t like being clay. I’m much too soft.
Always crushed, who could care for me. 
I am paper. 
Smooth, flexible, and blank waiting for a pen.
Kept in a book with other papers, but I’m chosen.
I must be special, right?
He spends hours at a time with me.
Just writing and drawing, making me perfect. 
It doesn’t matter how many papers he’s used. 
I’m the last. 
His words aren’t always wonderful or warm.
And his drawings are never good enough.
Always erasing, he’s only trying to help but it hurts. 
Ripped in half, through beautiful and bastardous words. 
He hates me, why wasn’t I good enough?
So here I lay crumpled and torn in half, thrown into darkness. 
I no longer want to be wasted paper.
I am stone. 
No longer fragile, hardened and heartless.
I’m strong and solid, jagged and rough. 
They saw something, not sure what, but something.
I’m scared, what if they’re like the rest? No I should have hope.
Day and night they pondered and planned, all just for me. 
Eventually it started, the chipping and chiseling.
God it hurts but it’s for the best, finally somebody saw.
Saw what I could be and they’re going to make me. 
Months spend on shaping me, constantly cutting away. 
Chipping, chiseling, perfecting my form. 
Again every stroke filled with love, real and genuine. 
But still it hurt, will love always hurt, or is it just me?
Finally finished, I was so excited, but I wasn’t happy. 
I hadn’t been happy for a long time. 
But I will be now of course, I have to be. 
They found me deep inside my rock, didn’t they?
I love them and they love me, but not who they made. 
Unstable and unstructured, hurting not healing, pure chaos. 
I cry and crumble to the ground, 
Nothing more then dust of as shell. 
But I hold no regrets, they all helped me realize who I am. 
Not clay, paper, or stone I’m me, free to be whatever I need.

2022 Winners

2023 Winners
Theme: Heritage

First Place


Klamath Tribe

By Standingbear C.

Donald E Long School, OR


Walking through Chiloquin taking in the culture.
Watching the Pow Wow 
Smelling the Fry Bread and 
Seeing everybody dance to the sound of drums.
Everybody speaks in my native language:
   Ekidwa Subkatca
Wearing the gold cross I bought with my mom. 
My hair braided like my ancestors.
My mother gave me my face.
My father gave me my anger. 


Second Place


A Beautiful Struggle

By J. P.A.

Slate Canyon, UT


My city is a broken mother

strengthened father with ambition
The border tells a twisted story
kids in critical condition
Immigration kicking doors
families praying for forgiveness
Begging for a sense of mercy
pleading God like he’s their witness


On the other side of town
running clocks & stolen Glocks
Telling mama how I’m sorry
that my house is a rusted box
The devil whispers in my ear
misguided mind that’s full of lies
Shattered heart is how I feel
every time I hear your cries


A fallen soldier is a dream
some say they have a purpose
Others livin’ like a nightmare
and the rest are always worthless
Divided world is what I live
my Latin blood is what I bare
The greatest sacrifice was made
for U.S. papers from despair

Third Place


My Heritage


Datema House, MO

A bullet hole ridden journal
With ink seeping from the pages
Written by pain and suffering
The books beginning was hastily drawn
By fear and violence
That terrorized all.
As pages turn 
The drunken writing disappears
Love begins to patch the holes
Yet the drunken words often pierce through
New hope whites out the drunken ink
Never a perfect fix but it holds, maybe
Though the past never defines the future
The ink appears past the whiteout
Reading Never trust, Drown all emotions
It contradicts the cleaned up pages

Which read hope, family, and vulnerability
I am a bullet ridden journal under rebinding
The beginning and middle makes up the end

Highly Commended 


By L.W.

Barboursville, WV

Hey black child, do you know who you are?
Equal to the world
Roots planted inside you
Intelligence for the remembrance of past lives
The lives who fought so you can be free
Anger they have but the love they felt
Gracefully bowing their heads to stand with you
Excited because, my dear black child, you finally know who you are!

Highly Commended 

Our Normal

By B.K.

Sharp Transition, MA

Bullets fly through the air 
   Trying to catch a body with no care
Children scream it's not fair
   But the shooter is not aware
For the parents it’s another nightmare
   Another kid dies and they’re walking on air
Is this Our Normal?
   So many deaths we can’t compare
Parents hearts broken beyond repair
Is this Our Normal?
Where parents and children live in fear
   So many homes broken every year
We stand and say do better!
   So kids can make it through their years
We say do better!
   This pain we can no longer bear
We stand and say do better!
For children it's so unfair
How much longer will this be Our Normal?
   Kids died with future they were denied
School shooters looking wild-eyed and tongue-tied
    Caskets Close
   Never to be seen again

BreakFree Choice


Everyday Thoughts

By Danielle

Clark County JDC, OH

When I lay in my bed I think.
Why bring me into the world if you didn’t want me.
Im angry…But a lot of it is hurt,
Did you love me? or was I your Mistake and you needed to get rid of me first?
Around my birthday I struggle the most,
That the day of August 1st that’s when you go,
You leave right in front of me,
Don’t say goodbye,
Nor that you love me or that you are sorry,
I was only so young,
The day I was born my trauma begun,
I was brought to a women,
That I now call mom,
The problem now is…I can’t feel love,
Im Terrified of men,
I fight men to hide that I’m terrified of them,

I can protect myself now,
I couldn’t when I was young,
It gets me in trouble
And sometimes locked up,
I look for love in all the wrong places,
But still can’t feel love,
Maybe I just don’t belong,
I isolate myself its easier to be alone,
I can’t be left, abandoned, hurt, or lose anyone close,
I’m not suicidal,
But I’m tired of living in pain,
When I go to sleep I pray god takes me away,
From this life said to be “FULL OF PURPOSE”,
But I am too drained,
Its time for me to go to sleep,
For that’s my get away,

Klamath TribeStandingbear
00:00 / 00:40

2022 Winners
Theme: Renewal

First Place


window window


Wyoming Girls School, WY


the window
footprints dug through the snow
                                           curtains twisted to the side
mud on the dreary ledge
          the last few hours a fathomless fuzz
you could do more
            you need more,    experience is lively
i look up
          i see beams in gloom and boredom
                     isolated from pure things in life

the window
            rays show themselves out the strange window
                       gliding their path to distaste in society
blood reveals itself like string from my torn neck 
           red smears stains on my chest and thighs
                                crusted, like a bygone pallet
           fallen lust
muscular musty stench of cigarettes and atrocity 
                      my nose filled with fraud
pain tangles with me in torn sheets
           keeping me company as silence fills my lungs and throat
                     where holes are formed and kept
empty pit, hostage
                                                               miles away
when will this end ?
                     doesn't a window symbolize freedom ?

the window
                artificial light becomes my home
remorse files around me like a bubble 
          wherever i turn
                     ghosts follow from the past
i open my eyes
           another sip,   another drag
                     my nose suffocated from a peculiar dust
           devouring every memory 
                     every flashback
                     every thought
           consciousness can’t speak for itself 
whatever happened, didn't
i know where my body is now 
but where is my mind ?

the window 
          i open the curtains
                      i feel the sun i've known 
                      rebirth upon my dull face
i feel my body
i feel my soul
           my mind speaks clearly
                     i experience cleanliness
but there is no cure
           there is no sudden restoration of mind and body
there is time, there is feeling, 
          there is healing 
                    every hour, every day
remedy for a broken soul
                     i am becoming restored


Second Place


Rising From the Ashes


Ashes dance within the howling air
Twisting boldly to express their feelings.
Ashes, for me. These are parts of myself that I have shed
As if I’ve outgrown my very own skin.
Parts of me that no longer exist inside myself, 
Which leaves me searching all over for something I cannot have
Because it’s outside of my reach.
Still, I reach blindly, only to fall from my instability.
Bewildered, abashed, not understanding but also not willing to see,
Remembering days when I was naive,
Molding memories that made me want to hide inside myself forever.
Looking at the world through the eyes of self-pity and insecurity,
The lens through which I perceive and view is immensely dull, 
Stimulating feelings of inadequacy,
Finding a source outside of myself to blame,
Because there are pieces of me that I cannot express freely.
Like the symphonious cry of the Phoenix, 
The tears I shed release pain that needs to be healed
As time wears on, I decide, in my mind, that I don’t want to feel confined.
I want to feel humble, free, and at peace with the war I modulated inside of me
For the lack of control I felt with circumstances that I once faced.
So I learn to accept myself for who I am, and the things I cannot change,
While changing the things I can.
The ashes transfigure from the parts of me that were sacrificed. 
The ashes rise and form a variation of myself that I did not fathom possible. 
A new me, a new hope, a new beginning,
Created from the sheddings of my old self, purified anew.
The ashes, the broken segments of me that rest apart from my consciousness
Ascend into the sky, fusing together to assemble a version of myself
That has been redeemed of all regret and sorrow.
A version of myself that now possesses strength and wisdom,
A divine masterpiece, rather, me, who can be solely at ease,
Even when challenges face me.
Not in the past or future, 
But in the moment of my rebirth.
The Phoenix soars high in the sky,
Overlooking the masses that gaze upward,
Accepting both the sophistication and influence it presents,
Enraptured by the resilience and wisdom they feel in their subconscious, 
And the beauty they see before their eyes.
The Phoenix is preeminent in the realm of spirituality, harmony, and peace.
Possessing the essence of balance, 
An element that has ascendancy in our lives as we experience it.
The Phoenix cries out, releasing agony through tears
Healing itself and others with its own process,
A continuance of healing.
The Phoenix ascends high in the sky, 
But never repeating
What once was.


Third Place


Blue Shirts


New Bridge High School, OR

As a kid I was misguided
Dad left me
But why did I care
Mom never cared
So I left her
13 different schools in 8 different years
Too smart for my grade, but too stupid to see
See what and where my actions would bring me
You see
Kids killing kids you got to be kidding me
A picture of violence gets a new shade darker every day
So I picture myself in a box unfamiliar shirts around me
Shirts of blue surround me
Shirts of grey define me
And I’m scared I try to do good but somethings growing in me
A darkness like I’m a blind mind with no sight
And a year
It’s a long time to not make a mistake
So it feels like everything I do is a mistake
I guess that’s why sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in a lake
Deep breaths they say
But how do you breathe with a force of a guilt measured by years on you
A gunshot
A door shut
A lighting strike

It’s all about perception
In a year my perception changed from gunshots to doors locked
But I try to will them open
I try to will a different perception
And that’s how I know these unfamiliar shirts around me are my family
So I try to be familiar with family
So one day
These Blue shirts wont surround me

BreakFree Choice


The Renewal of Me


Dorothy Kirby, CA

Can’t you see the smile in me?
My time ~ I feel free!
The brightness, the light in my eyes.
I’m happy. It is Spring.
See fit too fond of folly.
I’m not sad anymore. It’s the rebirth of me.
The freshness of my mind to begin again.
I planted a seed in my mind.
To feel free again. 
To God, he and I have come to an amends.
The renewal of my heart.
It shall never turn cool again.
I’m a Black girl, African American. 
Rape, Pain, Heartache…still, I have faith.
I am renewed. 
Life has improved.
Growing from a seed that Spring has helped blossom.
I am fresh and new.
The old pain and sorrow will not be missed.
I’m ready to live…
      ready for others
                  ready to co-exist. 


False Addiction


Durango Transitional Center, AZ

I Will


Durango Transitional Center, AZ



Okaloosa Academy DJJ, FL


By Z

Woodfield Academy, NY

Before I Forget


New Bridge High School, OR

New Path


Slate Canyon School, UT


*click on the titles to view the poems 

2021 Winners
Theme: Coexistence

First Place


Story of All Stories

By A. Vaughn.

Hogan School, MO


A boy hard but unknown like a forgotten book
Judged by the skin that covers his body
Instead of the knowledge he holds deep inside
The book is cherished by crimes and built in pain
From only fifteen pages of his story
The book is left in the trash for its dangerous chapters
Surrounded by several books with different covers but equal stories
So who is he to judge the others
Who is he to determine the next books chapter
Or how another books story should, could, or would end
Some books descendent from slaves
Others descendent from masters
Brave ones sacrifice their ending for a new story on a better shelf
For opportunities and a chance to be read
Peace will help write new chapters for better endings
If each book respect and embrace one another covers and stories
Forgive the past endings and history
Each book has their own dreams and journeys awaiting
As well as problems and challenges to face
Why not give the helping hand that is desperately needed
Why not love more than hate
Books that were trash are now treasure
Books that were treasure are now trash
But they will always have their forgotten stories
The cover is only temporary
The pages and chapters are forever

Second Place (tied)


No Love Lost

By Heaven A.
Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, TX


The door was locked
Resident around me flocked
Sedated and blocked
Looking lowly and largely for a leap to the free
Livid lost and surrounded by leery folks
Furious frantic ferocious fellows
Careless carefree cherry tossing items at me
Remembered Moma!
Her delicate touch cherished
She the candle of my life
Her love wider than the ocean
Know future lies around her.
If so, why am I here?
Life is feather
Flew folks to unknown territories
Forced to align to foreign treaties
Focused on connecting to trajectories
To land on freedom island
To feel heavenly pleasure
Because of the full treasure
That no one can measure



Second Place (tied)

The Forest

By William

Morton School, NE


I walk, hearing the running water upon the land
Lives disappear behind old oak trees, reaching high above me
Where they’re no longer visible to the human eye
Studying the life that wanders the forest where I now lurk,
I look high and low for the creatures who still roam
Near the treetops and rivers and ponds
In the forest, I wander


Third Place



By B. Collins

Bootcamp Perrin, TX


Our life is like a circle.
Going round and round.
Just waiting for a miracle
Listening closely for a different sound
Waiting for somewhere to go
Because we simply don’t know

Existing together as one.
Fighting a battle, we haven’t won.
Our life isn’t full of fun and joy.
It feels more like 50 people trying to share one toy.

This is not a place full of glee.

People don’t know what I’m going through unless those people are me.

But in the end we are still here.
We know everything even their fears.
Though they know what makes me cry
The fear we all have of saying goodbye.

In the end when we get out
Going home without a doubt
Will it be ok for me to cry?
Can I finally ask the real question of Why?
But when you leave don’t trip, don’t fall.
Because maybe life isn’t a circle after all…

Honorable Mention


Where I'm From

By Samuel B.
Elkins Mountain School, WV


I was raised on the wrong sides of town.
I was raised where kids cannot play on playgrounds.
People in my city cannot coexist.
People on my community do as they wish.
A place where you cannot walk around.
Without wondering if you are going to be gunned down.
A place where some try to make it out.
But as a young kid they strike you down.
As mothers are weeping.
Suspects are still creeping about.
Waiting for a victim ready to pounce.
As a community we choose to deny the truth.
From a single shot from a gun.
“Bang” there goes our youth.

Honorable Mention



By H. Gutierrez

Crestview Youth Academy, FL


The view of this cold world is tragic
Where young kids kill people with automatic
God where you at so you can stop this madness
So funeral home don’t run out of caskets
People can’t speak of what they see
If they do, they rest in peace
Government officials discriminate how we livin
They don’t help us with welfare, so why they trippin
They change our hood with gentrification
Without having a say and bringing frustration
We need peace and love and coexistence
Don’t matter what color it is there should be no difference
Our brothers and sisters can’t walk alone
Some have the mindset; they won’t make it back home
Police judge us by look and style
Don’t matter if your adult or child
They beat us and treat us unfairly
Because they work for the government and the badge they carry
The United States says we have rights
Y’all tell me, if it is truth or lies?
I’m Hispanic, he’s Black, you’re white,
As a family, We Should Unite!

BreakFree Choice Award


Sweet Home Los Angeles

By Christopher

Dorothy Kirby, CA


In LA where people die every day.
Coexistence is a struggle.
For my brown and black brothers- it’s a rumble.
Out here your color will get you killed.
And to some people this is a thrill.
In this place we call home we just tryin’ to coexist.

But what does this mean?
It means embracing the struggle,
And fixing the rumbles.
We coexist through love, unity, and strength
No keepin’ each other at arm’s length
So that we all can live another day
And co-exist in this place we call LA.

A. Vaughn - First Place
Samuel B. - Honorable Mention

2019 Winners

First Place


Breaking My Mother's Addiction 

By D.A.C.

Granite YES School, UT


What I know for sure is that my mother

loves me,

but her addiction might be forever.

What I know for sure is the sun

will come up tomorrow,

people will die, and life will keep

moving on.

I know that life is hard sometimes,

and some days I won’t want to get up.

A child of an addict craving my mothers’ love,

it makes my heart sick.

What I know for sure is I made a little girl

of my own.

I know I don’t want to cause the same

pain I felt

to my daughter in her life.

What I know for sure is I love

my daughter

with my whole heart.

Running away will never work.

A mother cannot run away.

It only causes more pain.

I also know forgiving my mother and then myself

might take a long time,

but in the end, I need to remember

my mother did, still does, and always will

love me.

Now that I’ve grown up a lot, I’ve come to realize

that I want to love my mother from


a distance.

I know that I can show my daughter that

I love her in a different way.

What I know for sure is I will

break the cycle of drug addiction.

My mother loves me, and because of me,

her addiction won’t be forever,

and the sun will come up tomorrow.

I know if I break the cycle, then

through me,

her addiction won’t last forever.

Second Place (tied)


The Drug In Me

By McKenzie

Juniper Hills HS, ID


I am white and crystalized,

My world is through the eyes of people that see dark skies,

I take him or her through it all, I am running through the veins when they overdose and fall,

I love the addicts who come back for more,

I get inside little girls and close the door,

I don’t want to be me but I’m too scared to die,

I can see everyone lie, I watch men rape girls and sell me,

I am hard to make so they pay their fee,

I see the men who think their able to treat them and me this way,

I know it’s all because they shoot me into their bodies every day,

My name is tweak but the guys with the flashing lights call me methamphetamine,

Why live when people only want you to use,

I want to win but they always get caught and I lose,

I always end up taking a family away,

Why can’t they just love me without all these prices to pay?

I don’t want you to be addicted I just want you to want more,

That is who I am, I’m rotten to the core.

I know you heard about tweak but let me tell you about me,

Paranoia taken over my mind,

Needed to get away,

I hid the side of me I didn’t want them to find,

I belong to the game, the game that you don’t want to play,

Where big guys make you take your clothes off,

Hands sliding down,

Needles entering them just to feel that cough,

The big man won’t sell me anymore,

He doesn’t allow anyone else to touch me,

He is what I am for,

Padlocks on the windows and of course they locked me inside,

He put his hands around my neck,

I screamed and he said don’t worry it’ll be alright,

He said I just want to show you what it feels like,

I let him of course, Ride me like a bike,

He let me go in hopes I would come right back,

I ran as fast as I could,

I hid in someone’s backyard and that’s when I heard the pack,

The sound of their heavy breathing finally stopped,

I ran out because I thought they had left,

They grabbed me in an instant,

I went back and he shoved me full of meth,

The man who did this to me for months was never far away,

I got pregnant and that was it he was going to be a daddy now,

He got really mad one night and kicked me, I started to cry and held my side,

The baby was gone it died,

I got away to get pregnancy tests without him knowing,

He searched for me scared I might not come back,

The cops found me and wouldn’t let me go,

They found the drugs in a house raid,

I hope this will change some way,

This is happening behind closed doors every day.



Second Place (tied)


By Anthony

Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center, FL


I’m locked up, choked, covered, and tied by iron and steel chains,

Chains that cannot be fought by strength but by brains,

These chains have bound around my body, mind and soul,

Two-to-three years of my growing adolescence have they stole,

Too many times have I had these metal snakes biting into my skin,

Sharp teeth digging at my wrists and ankles digging deeper within.


Too many times I seen another like myself having turned and made mistakes,

Wishing they could go back and change their ways,

Looking for someone else to blame and who should pay,

I remember when I was that same way a few years remain.


But, I understand I’m riding this road alone; if want to pass their will be a toll,

Luckily for me, I’ll soon be home and free,

But many others are not able to say the same,

Some have chosen to stick to this life and claim it for themselves to be,

Others plead and cry and hate themselves for joining their friend’s stupid “game”.


One mistake will change a life more than they may think,

Our choices will lead you down paths and roads you will either love or hate,

Only very few make it out without being pushed to the brink,

I hope my words have gotten through to help, before it’s too late!


Third Place


Astral Plane

By Jahamahn

Nancy B. Jefferson High School, IL


A place,

where fear is non-existent.

A place,

where you’re not forced to move decisions.

It’s the same place

where no sane man is a citizen;

it’s the same place,

for me to go visiting,

my grasp on

reality must be slipping.

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