“Poets look at the world in a completely different way than anybody else ever looks at the world, and I believe everybody should look at the world like a poet does.” 

As a high school student, Cassidy Howard experienced InsideOut front multiple angles. A member of the 2021 InsideOut Youth Performance Troupe, Cassidy also served two terms on InsideOut’s Youth Advisory Board and was a recipient of the 2022 Citywide Poets Scholarship.

From a young age Cassidy had an interest in reading and writing, eventually leading her to explore poetry as a way to process her feelings and experiences:  

I’ve always loved English. My elementary school essentially ran out of books for me because I was reading at too high of a level for our accelerated reader tests, so in fourth grade I started writing five-paragraph essays that I would get to read to my principal.

Seventh grade was when I wrote my first poem that wasn’t an assignment. I wrote it following the Pulse nightclub shooting. I was sitting on the gymnasium floor, and I had my iPod, and I remember reading all of these news alerts and I was like “What am I going to do about this?” These are a lot of big feelings for only being in seventh grade, and realistically, this is on the other side of the country, and there is nothing I’m capable of doing about it, and so I wrote a piece called “My America.” 

In high school Cassidy joined Thurston High School’s Citywide Poets site and then applied and won a spot on the 2021 InsideOut Youth Performance Troupe and Youth Advisory Board where she not only grew as a poet and performer, but also received support to develop as a young leader. 

InsideOut has always been very big on the belief that the students are the leaders. I’m at the age where I have all these opinions and nobody feels like letting me voice any of them, but when you’re in InsideOut, every single adult is telling you how crucial your opinions are and how much value that they hold to the entire organization. The nurturing feeling and the support that you get from all of these people telling you that you’re meant to be a leader, you’re meant to help, builds a really good base to continue to improve upon your leadership. 

InsideOut also helped Cassidy to see that poetry and creative writing could be more than just a hobby. 

I assumed that writing wasn’t something that I could achieve as a career, that it was always going to be a passion of mine, but I wasn’t going to be able to get anywhere with it, and then I was introduced to InsideOut where we had these poets coming every week, and this was their job. They got to “do” English, and they got to have poetry remain part of their lives. Being able to see that role model was a spectacular thing for me.

Cassidy is interested in studying journalism, creative writing, and Mandarin in college at Michigan State University – a plan that the Citywide Poets Scholarship, which provides up to $25,000 per year toward tuition for 4 years of college, will help make a reality. But even for students who aren’t interested in continuing to write in the future, Cassidy views poetry as essential for everyone to understand themselves and the world around them.

Regardless of what path in life you’re taking, there’s always room for a little satchel full of poetry because poetry is really not even about the words themselves. As amazing as the words are, I don’t even feel like that’s the main point of it. From poetry you get vulnerability, you get people skills, and you have the ability to know yourself. Because in order to write these words, you have to look into a part of you that people are prone to shying away from. 

Poets look at the world in a completely different way than anybody else ever looks at the world, and I believe everybody should look at the world like a poet does. Poets are always going to find the flower growing in between the concrete. To give people that mindset is absolutely crucial. Regardless of what you do, you’re going to be a better person just because of it.