Anthony DelaRosa - Boston Pulse Poetry, Manager of Teacher Leadership Development at Teach For America Miami-Dade
Anthony DelaRosa is a writer, leadership coach, educator, and the founder of Boston Pulse Poetry. He is passionate about education and the youth. Tony works in the field of education and grown as a leader to empower students, help them find their voice, and advocate for creative development. He believes mentorship, and Filipinix American representation and his love for his work can be felt though his words below.
Manager of Teacher Leadership Development at Teach For America Miami-Dade & Founder of Boston Pulse Poetry
How did you create your career path? What inspired you to go into education/work with youth?
Although I'm in education, my original career path was to work as a Japanese Translator & Interpreter for Delta Airlines or the military. When I went to Japan in 2011 during the Tōhoku Earthquake, I was fortunate to do two things that changed my career path forever. One of those things was that I was able to live with a host family (The Ogawas). May Ogawa Kaoru was my host mother and ran a in-home ESL teaching center. She hired me as one of her ESL teachers, which exposed me to the magic and craft of teaching. The second thing was that through the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship, low-income college students under pell grants were able to partner with Reach The World to serve as travel correspondents. After I was accepted as a correspondent, I was connected to a 1st and 2nd grade class in Brooklyn, NY where I wrote an education blog for these classes which were taught over Skype. Once a month during my yearlong stay, I was in charge of teaching youth in urban schools about Japanese language, culture, and the power of international exchange. These two components drove me to apply for Teac For America, which I later got accepted in 2012. Ever since there it's been history.
What drives you?
There are so many things that drive me. But most recently it has been unlocking other people's passions and potential to pursue social justice work. I've had the privilege of having so many mentors which I call "friendtors" (taken from friendtor Daniel Scarver). I want other people to have this opportunity as well. Mentorship is underrated. We need strong and committed mentors who are wiling to support low-income and marginalized youth in order for the opportunity gap and debt to close. Mentors that stick with a person for more than just 1-2 years. Mentors who are there when everyone else is not. That will be the nuanced difference if we want to see impact.
What is the story behind Boston Pulse Poetry?
In 2013, I co-founded a youth spoken word organization called Indy Pulse after winning a shark tank competition hosted by Teach Plus. My co-founders, Daniel Harting, Dr. Camea Davis, and Lauren Hall were tired of seeing students without a platform to speak up. We were tired of students not having access to critical literacy and identity-affirmin arts pedagogy. So we started this program which eventually was piloted as either an after school wrap around program or in-school elective course where kids in Indianapolis could learn about these very essential subjects. Aside from access to different types of pedagogy, we wanted to bridge communities and provide access to people from different backgrounds and lived-experiences. Our most successful events have been our community open mic nights, where diverse groups of people come together to listen to what youth had to say. In a way they acted as issue assemblies rooted in youth voice.
After a few years of piloting and testing the program in Indianapolis, I had moved to Boston with my fiancee'. In 2015, I was able to start Boston Pulse Poetry in my classroom. The hunger and need for critical literacy and identity-affirming arts pedagogy was right in front of me as a middle school teacher. In 2017, I got into the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the sole purpose of continuing to strengthen this program and my leadership. As I was doing this on my own for the first couple years, I noticed that our students were getting invited to speak at Yale, Harvard, and Tedx events and conferences. Because of this I applied to the 4.0 School Tiny Fellowship which helped us expand our program's mission to helping youth with public speaking along with providing access to resources. As I live in Miami, FL I was able to recruit Boston-native, Edward Dana Ruff (aka D Ruff) who serves as our Creative Program Director, and Heidi Castro - our Operations Director. Both of these individuals are champions of educational equity who speak, breath, and live for youth voice empowerment.
How are you growing FL Poetry?
As I just moved to Miami this past August 2018, I'm just getting my feet wet. I've been partnering with the Omari Hardwick BluApple Poetry Network (under the Jason Taylor Foundation), to continue my passion and love for education. Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, Seth Levit, has mentioned that he wants to continue building with me and potentially co-create some form of youth poetry and public speaking organization based in Miami. Beyond formalization of another program, I'm just happy that I am able to continue working with kids since I've become a teacher-leadership coach. Administration can be daunting to the soul if you're too estranged from the root of the work. Creative youth development is life-giving and I foresee myself doing this work, in some capacity, for the rest of my life.
How important is diversity and representation in your work?
Diversity and Representation is vital in closing the education gap and repaying the education debt. As a Filipinx American who spent most of his formative years living in OH, I didn't see many people who looked like me that led organizations both in high school and during college. If they were Asian American, they were mostly East Asian American. As a Filipinx American we fall into a complex category, where non-Filipinx people or Filipinx people under the model minority myth and colonial mentalities often tell our narratives for us or leave us out. Because of this, people often assume that my family grew up with a certain level of power, privilege, and access, which was often untrue. I was receiving pell grants to help finance my education. I never knew that I fell under the low-income bracket, until joining Teach For America where I learned of this explicitly. This is all to say, if I had a Filipinx American or Asian American mentor or leader who understood the nuances of my situation, I probably wouldn't have prioritized working three jobs while attending school. I would have known where to focus my energy and time. I feel like that lack of mentorship in my community, has slowed my own progression, which shouldn't have to be true for others. Because I was so focused on paying my way through college, I missed out on other opportunities that my more affluent peers were able to pursue.
What are some things you believe in and are working towards?
I believe that passion and youth voice are untapped resources in education. I'm working toward unlocking other people's passions to ensure that they are able to give a unique and high quality education to the youth they serve in the Miami-Dade Public Schools. Another thing I truly believe in is a strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion arm to any organization. Currently the Miami-Dade Public Schools does not have a formalized role that ensures that the entire district is operating out of an equity and inclusion lens. I'm working to ensure that I have the tools and experience to be able to help spearhead this in the future!
How did you like your FylPro experience? What have you taken away from it?
I absolutely loved my Fylpro experience. Not in my entire life have I been exposed to working alongside an incredibly talented and high performing group of Filipinx/o/a Americans specifically to build bridges from the US to the Philippines until now. I was able to represent the US education sector as a Delegate to the Philippine Embassy to the US. For one, this prestigious program really invests in the people they accept. When I say "prestigious" I mean high quality programming designed for holistic and high quality leaders. If you want to join an existing program or start an organization or campaign aimed at improving the US-to-Philippine relations, FylPro is a strong network with a plethora of resources and connections.
My broad take away is that the Philippines has a lot of work to do to improve the lives of their people in regards to transportation, healthcare, health education, poverty, and more. Another takeaway is that the Philippines is very open to Filipinx/o/a Americans who are willing to move back and build. While I personally won't move back because I have goals to be a civic leader in the US, I want my future children and other Filipinx/o/a Americans to have this opportunity to build roots in the motherland and give back to pay forward.
What has been instrumental in your personal and creative growth?
For my personal growth, the quote "Don't let school interfere with your education" by Mark Twain resonates. I educated myself out of anesthetic learning by going to visual arts, music, and poetry slams during my undergraduate experience at the University of Cincinnati. To be able to conceptualize that my own learning happens most effectively outside of the classroom and in a constructivist "learn-by-doing" method, I was able to grow and see myself grow. I also need to thank anyone and everyone who challenged me whether it be student, coach, teacher, family member, or friends -- not letting me get away with being complicit with the status quo has been both humbling and life changing.
For my creative growth, there are a few things that have helped: 1) practicing the craft on a regular schedule and when especially when you have writer's block, 2) keeping myself up-to-date with poets and writers who are creating new canons of value, and 3) surrounding myself with artists outside of my genre. If you ask any artists I think these three would fall in their top tens list of things that help with creative growth. I want to speak a little more about number 2, when I say "new canons of value" I simply mean that these are the poets that have challenged the status quo of what is considered valuable. They have challenged traditions in writing and art that have been rooted in the white dominant narrative. Artists like Eddy Kwon, Eve Ewing, Aysha Upchurch, Esperanza Spalding have helped me re-conceptualize "value."
Do you have any projects, events coming up this year?
On February 2nd I'm doing a keynote speech for the Association of Independent Schools of New England Middle School Students of Color Conference in Cambridge, MA. On February 8-9th I'm also leading a workshop at the East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference in Orlando, FL with Teach For America. And the biggest event of the year is happening on June 15th, which is the day I get married to Stephanie Jimenez #NaranjaEntera.