Inspire & Red Ink Student Poems

Here you will find the poems, stories and nonfiction creations of the 2016 Inspire young women and young men. We wish that we could share with you the actual experience of being there that day, but here is a permanent record of the thoughts, feelings and lives as shared by these amazing young people.

From the teachers:

The Inspire Camp was a week of surprises: surprising experiences, surprising friendships, and surprising talents. The Indigenous Reading and Writingproved to be surprising, too. We enjoyed every moment with the Inspire young men and women, who rose to the challenge of reading an entire book and writing their own creative pieces in just a few days. We had a great week writing from the heart, reflecting on life’s experiences, realizing what gifts the people and places in our lives are, and thinking deeply about who we are and what it means to us.

Everyday brought a new set of stories and poems in Rising Voices, poems and stories mined from the lives of Native youth from all over the country. And every day brought new techniques for digging deeply into our own lives and telling our own stories, the stories of our homes, our friends, our loved ones, our loves and our losses.

The week brought no shortage of hard work, either, uncovering and discovering the jewels and heartbreaks from our lives. And revising is no easy work, either, but the praise, inquiries, and suggestions from new friends were priceless and the support and encouragement they provided took us all to a new level of artistry.

The biggest surprise of the week, however, happened on Friday night at the Open Mic Evening. The four teachers knew their students had been working on some brilliant pieces, but had they revised and perfected them to the level hoped for? The Inspire writers has been practicing their delivery, too, honing their prosody, pitch, and poise, but would they perform with the courage and confidence they had shown in class? Would they even volunteer to step up to the microphone and show what they had accomplished?

The Friday Open Mic Evening was unbelievable. Every Inspire participant, from all over the map, performed with grace, courage, and no small amount of humor. One of the biggest surprises may have been when young men and women who had been uncertain of their skills, uncertain of the quality of their prose and poetry, somewhat afraid of their audience, rose to a new height of courage and showed they had something important to say and could say it amazingly well. 


Audrey Napoleone
Kyle Wilson
Andrea Box
James Blasingame

Shalee Allison

Shalee Allison


She is Native American,

and she hopes to make a change for her people.

She doesn’t want to disappoint her elders.

Now she wants the world to hear her.

She knows that this is her chance to disprove everyone

who thought she was wrong.

She is going to get an education.

She is going to be someone.

She is Native American.

Shalee Allison (Dine) is a sophomore at Desert Ridge High School (DRHs) in Mesa, Arizona. She is on the DRHS golf team. Shalee plans to study at Arizona State University.

Lyndsey Armstrong

Lyndsey Armstrong

The Ranch

The ranch is where it is peaceful.

It is quiet the only sound you hear are the echo of an engine, the moo of a cow, the neigh of a horse or the hollow sound of the wind.

Where the ranch has a downstairs and upstairs.

Where a generous man once built a tower of rocks that still stands.

Where hundreds, hundreds of wild horses roam free.

Where there is a tall tree that reminds me of the kind souls who were there before me.

Where there is a herd of sheep that are so poofy and big.

Where a dog will stare at you and bark. Where horses will also stare at you, with hay hanging out of their mouths.

Where the land is covered with grass.

During the spring, the grass grows for the livestock.

Where a hogan’s doorway is faced to the east.

Where mostly everything “upstairs” is welded by my grandpa.

Where the sun begins to hide behind the mountain

Only to call out the annoying mosquitos .

Where the darkness begins to take over so we make sure we leave.

The ranch will sleep and so will we.

Kimberly Billie

Kimberly Billie

My Lillie

Mother Nature’s lilies are beautiful.

My Lillie was gorgeous.


Mother Nature’s lilies come in various shades of white, purple,

and orange.

My Lillie had beautiful brown skin and long, peppered



Mother Nature’s lilies have velvet, luscious petals.

My Lillie had sweet, soft, wrinkled hands.


Mother Nature’s favorite color for her lilies seems to be


My Lillie was madly in love with purple.


Mother Nature’s lilies provide oxygen and beauty.

My Lillie made amazing blue-mush and hot bread.


Mother Nature’s lilies bring liveliness to a garden.

My Lillie brought joy and teachings to my world.


Mother Nature’s lilies grow in soil and watch me as I grow.

My Lillie watches over me in the sky—my Lillie is my beautiful


Kimberly Billie (Diné) is a senior at Window Rock High School. She is on the varsity cheer squad for WRHS ad is a Reach-NCHO youth leader. Kimberly plans to get a degree in Sociology at Arizona State University after high school.

Binita GreyBull

Binita GreyBull


Before coming to the ASU Inspire program, I wouldn’t dare

bother to speak out about how I really felt about how myself

and other Native Americans were being looked at, thought

about, and treated.


I realized that I have a right to be angry about a lot of things,


I am angry that I have been forced to learn English instead of

learning my own language.

I am angry that I have been forced to learn about a history that

is not my own.

I am angry that schools don’t have classes about Native Americans,

except for the schools on reservations that teach

us to learn our own languages and histories.

It’s unfair to Natives that we have to learn exclusively about

races that are not our own.

I feel like schools across the globe should be forced to learn

about our Native culture and history because I have been

forced to learn about theirs.

I am also angry about Native Americans being forced to live on

reservations instead of living wherever we want,

After all our land has been taken from us so I believe we should

have a right to live wherever we please instead of being

categorized and placed in a certain place like animals.

I am most angry about being discriminated against, put down,

and doubted because I am a Native American wanting to

be successful in a white man’s world.

Binita GreyBull (Sioux and Apache) is a junior at San Carlos High School. She is currently working for a program called "Young Warriors" as a mentor-in-training. She plans to study nursing at Arizona State University or join Commission Core after high school.

Jessica Herrera

Jessica Herrera

Who Am I?

I know I am Kinyaa’aanii.

I know I am Tse NahabiInii.

I know I am Naakaii Dine’e.

I know I am To’dich’ii’nii.

But what does that mean?

It means I have pride, style, ability, smiles and thoughts.

So I ask you again, Creator who am I?

I am that girl who loves doing so many things for her family.

I am that girl who was in your shoes long ago.

So I ask you again, Creator who Am I?

I am just that young girl who is living her dreams.

As I walk on mother earth’s land from beauty to be who I


So Creator I ask you,

Who am I?


Jessica Herrera (Diné) is a senior at Bloomfield High School. She's on student government, serving as a district representative. Jessica plans to get a degree in Early Childhood for teaching the Navajo language and tribal government at Dine College after high school.

Austin Kiyanni-McClary

Austin Kiyanni-McClary

Entertainment and Family

His first name is Kevin,

and he dreams of doing entertainment around the whole


like being a rapper, dancer, or comedian.

He once got an offer to do a television show but turned it

down because he couldn’t afford it.

Now, he mostly just goes around our neighborhood and does

Entertainment on the sidewalks in an open area to get easy

money or recognition.

He wishes that the world would be peaceful and more loving

and that he could help his family afford things

and for him to get known easier.

He loves when people tell him he’s going places or he’s a

good entertainer

because it motivates him to do more and more.

His favorite talent is rapping.

I know he will always stick to what he’s doing

because he’s doing whatever he can

to help his family.

His last name is Stevens,

and he is my best friend from down the street.

Austin Kiyaani-McClary (Diné) is a freshman at Chandler Preparatory Academy. He's a member of the boy's varsity basketball team and trains with his AAN basketball teams during the off-season. Austin continues to keep his options open for college but plans to study the sciences with hopes of becoming an anesthesiologist.

Petula Lee

Petula Lee


I am from the sands of the earth,
from the plants and the wild flowers.
I am from wooden poles that are oaky and smooth.
I am from the trees that sway backward and forward,
the Navajo tea that grows every summer,
whose long gone stems I remember as if they were my own.

I am from a wall with paintings,
so bright and colorful
I’m from Gun’s n Roses and Metallica
and “Paradise City” on the radio.

I am from the grass of the football field,
from the smell of dirt once you hit the ground
and the sound of shoulder pads clashing
over the sound of the announcer talking.

I am from the band room,
from the music notes floating in my head.
I’m from counting and taking long, deep breaths
and marching in the homecoming parade

I’m from peyote meetings and Navajo hair buns,
from grandpa and grandma singing songs
that been passed down through generations.

I’m from pow-wows
And from birthday meetings

I am from blue canyon,
from where the roads are not paved,
the roads that get muddy during winter,
from the heat of the sun bears down on us

I’m from dos and don’ts
and try your best at everythings.
I’m from Albuquerque and Fort Defiance,
Stew and fry bread,
from the memories of traveling with grandma and grandpa,
who live in my heart.

Petula Lee (Diné) is a Junior at Window Rock High School. She is on the footbal team and plays in the school's honor band. After high school Petula plans on going to the military. After the military she plans on going to school to become a music educator, welder, and nurse.

Octavius Normand

Octavius Normand

I am from…

I am from my hat,
From our books and my tablet.
I am from Arizona that has an atmosphere of unique people.
I am from Shiny Xylosma,
The Palo Brea, whose long limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from a humble size family that upholds the value of family.
My family is also paradoxical.
I’m from consistency and order,
But not forgetting to engage in fun activities.

I’m from extraordinary and different,
And Dubstep and a vast music genre.
I’m from a family of traditional traditions.
I’m originally from the land of snow and the people of earth.
And frybread and bluecorn mush,
From hardships, determination, and ancestral customs.
My memories lay within my heart and mind.

Octavius Normand is a freshman in high school, currently residing in Arizona. His interests have always been in creating and building. His future plan is to go to college and get a degree in the field of engineering.

Coral Tachine

Coral Tachine


My family will always be with me in my heart and everywhere I go

I know I can always count on them to be there when I most need them

Like when we first moved down here to a new town with new everything

Now there is no one in this whole universe I would rather have

I could never ever think about leaving them

From my mom, dad, brother, sister, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandma and grandpa

With their special teachings

I would never ever be without them.

Nizhoni Tallas

Nizhoni Tallas

Breaking The Cycle

I remember growing up
In a messed up, build up of feelings
That could have made me into someone I didn’t want to be.

Hearing shouts, that I couldn’t shut out
Filled with fear and confusion
I didn’t understand, I was just a little girl

Going to school was my way out
Even though it was a different route
I didn’t want to be in a drought
I wanted to blossom
and make my doubts, doubt itself

Realizing God and school saved me
It made me see
All these hardships I face
was all worth it
I know who I want to be.

Nizhoni Tallas (Diné) is a senior at Navajo Preparatory School. She is a part of her school's National Honor Society, Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, American Indian Science Engineering Society and various other clubs. She plans to attend college, become a Environmental Scientist and to one day use her knowledge to give back to her community.

Lacosta Vargas

Lacosta Vargas

Nahodishgish, New Mexico

There the ground is often brown,


like the Natives around.

But when the green grass grows,

I hear the laughter of crows.

I am from where our livestock roam free.


as they can be.

I am from a land.

A land

where I will never be banned.

I am from where

family is all around.

A place where

I call home.