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LatinoLA - Roosevelt High School Student Wins Poetry Scholarship

LatinoLA Contributor

Jan 25, 2018

Sonia Arreguin, graduating senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, and resident of Central-Alameda, Los Angeles, is the winner of the inaugural "Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word." 

"As an aspiring writer, nothing fills me with more joy than the knowledge of someone finding my work to be good." Arreguin said, upon hearing she had been chosen.

The scholarship was created by spoken word artist and poet David A. Romero to recognize graduating seniors for their creation of poems dealing with social justice. A panel of five judges were selected by Romero to review poems, applications, and letters of recommendation.

According to Romero, judges felt that Arreguin's poem "No Thank You," perfectly captured the spirit of the women's rights #MeToo Movement by calling out the phenomenon of "catcalling" and other forms of harassment that women experience from men daily.

An except from Arreguin's "No Thank You" illustrates the unease that harassment causes, and the desire to protect oneself it engenders:

"I don't need you to make me feel beautiful 
A stranger's hug and kiss on the cheek does not result in thank you 
It results in a please let go, and a clench of the pepper spray I do not own
Clenched, a fist, I will not dare throw."

In 2014, nonprofit Stop Street Harassment conducted a survey in USA, finding 65% of women had experienced street harassment: 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual.

Arreguin's "No Thank You" tackles these issues through poetry. 

"Sonia has a clear and powerful voice and is saying something that society needs to hear right now; that women are tired of being harassed, and that they don't need anyone but themselves to tell themselves that they are beautiful." Romero said.

Arreguin attended the Women's March in Los Angeles and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C., was a member of both Roosevelt's swim, and mock trial, teams, participated in the Eastside Stories Conference at Roosevelt High, tutored at the LA Public Library, and attended workshops and other events with teen poetry program Get Lit – Words Ignite; among many other extracurricular activities. 

Arreguin's AP Literature and Composition teacher, Jeff Matsumura, was effusive with praise for his student.

"In the twenty-four years that I have been in education, rarely have I been privileged to teach a student of such academic ability, social awareness, and positive personality. As a first-generation high school student and a future first generation college student, Sonia challenges herself to face any obstacle that she faces." Matsumra said.

College and Career Advisor at Roosevelt, Raul Mata, who spread the word of the scholarship to teachers at the high school to get their students to apply, was glad to hear the news of Arreguin's win. "Sonia is a great recipient!" Mata said.

Sonia Arreguin hopes to attend UC Berkeley, USC, or Northwestern in the fall. 

Romero says he looks forward to continuing the scholarship in the future.

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