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Social Change, One Word at a Time

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How many of us associate the word “poet” with the word “employment”? Probably not many. If we think about poets at all in this context we likely imagine them working at some other job like 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Wallace Stevens, who throughout his career as Vice President of Hartford Accident and Indemnity stuffed poems into his desk drawer. Of course, he also published them, but his “job” was something other than poetry.

Peter Jean Teodoro, a junior in the Humanities and Cultural Studies program affectionately known around campus as JT, is bucking the trend and getting paid to do what he loves most besides writing and performing music: teaching poetry and working for social justice. For him, poetry has become an employable skill and a key to working with youth in the community to bring about concrete social change.

Recently JT was hired as a “mentor poet” by Marin County Juvenile Hall to create and conduct weekly poetry workshops for their incarcerated youth, who range in age from 13-17. To secure this post, JT joined the California Poets in the Schools Program while enrolled here at Dominican. He served as a volunteer in Balboa High and other schools in San Francisco to get the specific training he needed.

JT asserts that his experience here at Dominican plays a crucial role in his ability to both teach and write poetry, “It gives me the knowledge and confidence I need to work with these youth.  My courses have expanded my knowledge and my perspective, making my own poetry, which often winds up in songs, both deeper and richer. My professors have inspired me to dig below the surface with a critical eye.” This, he says, has “further flamed my passion for social justice.”

Asked which professors have most inspired him, JT rattles off a number of names. However, Henry Shreibman and Harlan Stelmach particularly stand out. “Henry inspired me to attend Dominican. I met him during my campus visit and was blown away. As a Rabbi who teaches at a school with a Catholic heritage, he symbolized the open exploration available at this school. And Harlan has been an all around great mentor.”

JT, originally from the Philippines, is also a Music minor here at Dominican. He and his fellow Boondock Squad band mates perform regularly throughout the Bay Area. In May 2011, they will release their first CD, When Monkeys Make Music. Check out their facebook page, where you can listen to sample songs and watch performance videos.


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