Araceli Montaño began with the Crossroads Collaborative in 2012 through her participation with the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS). She started writing poetry in 2010 as a way to cope and heal when her brother passed away. As part of Sunnyside’s Poetry Club, she worked weekly with TYPS and went on to place in the top three at the citywide Slam Championship for three consecutive years. She now serves as the TYPS Slam Coordinator and as a staff member of its host organization, Spoken Futures Inc.
TYPS made a major impact on Araceli—the knowledge she has gained about the importance of youth voice and the work with youth in her Tucson community has impacted her immensely. Since her participation in TYPS, Araceli has been able to represent youth voices and issues at statewide competitions including at the 2012 Brave New Voices International Poetry Festival (BNV) in San Francisco, California. She continues running workshops and performing in the community for events like HIV youth awareness, Tucson Festival of Books, and the Dia De Los Muertos Procession. Within the last few years, Araceli has gained connections that will continue to assist her in making future opportunities.
Now a sophomore at the University of Arizona, Araceli has worked alongside Crossroads Scholars such as Amanda Fields. When asked, Amanda Fields said, “Araceli is a multi-talented and motivated poet, thinker, activist, and educator. I am thrilled by the opportunity to collaborate with her, and I have learned so much from her about why it is we do what we do and how it matters to our many communities.”
Through this collaboration, Araceli assisted in collecting various data to help organize the video documentation for TYPS. She also participated in an independent study sponsored by Crossroads Co-Director, Adela C. Licona and designed and taught by Amanda Fields where she learned to analyze poetry across different themes and will soon become published in Fields’ dissertation. Although Araceli works another job in order to support herself while going to college, she consistently volunteers with the poetry club at Sunnyside High School. She has also worked with and performed at Douglas High School and Eastpointe High School and serves as an educator with Liberation Lyrics, a program of Spoken Futures that aims to enhance awareness on social issues and empowering youth to voice their opinions through writing.
Being connected to youth and community is important for Araceli because she once needed a safe space too. Araceli says, “When I’m organizing and hosting the TYPS, looking into a crowd of 100 people who are youth waiting to be heard and community who are willing to listen is a phenomenal experience. This type of space was important for me during my high school years and I’m happy to be providing it for other youth.” She believes that spoken word can be utilized for activism, emotional health, education and fun.
Being involved with organizations like Crossroads and Spoken Futures Inc., allows Araceli to voice her perspectives about the world as a young, brown woman. Araceli does this work in hopes that other young people will feel validated to learn and teach from their experiences in the same way she did.