By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — The city of Rockford has tapped its official youth poet to help spread a message about the importance of understanding and managing your personal health.

Trinity Rucker’s poem “Do It All” is meant to capture the importance for young people to take control of their health, realizing that one day they won’t be able to rely on their parents or guardians to handle their health care responsibilities.

“You, one day, are going to have to do it all: Your parents won’t always be there. Your friends won’t always be there,” Rucker told the Rock River Current. “There’s going to have to come a time where you’re going to have to advocate for yourself, and you’re going to have to take a stand because you can’t allow other people to take that stand for you.”

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This is the second year that the Rockford Ready program has deployed poetry and the arts to help spread a message about health literacy. Last year’s youth poet Giulyana Gamero, then a senior at Auburn High School, created a series of poems in English and Spanish that explored various aspects of navigating the health care system.

Rockford Ready is a collaborative initiative between the city of Rockford, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, Office of Health Literacy, UIC College of Medicine Rockford and CURA Strategies.

“Our work with the first youth poet laureate really highlighted the fact that health literacy is a learned skill, and it’s something that young people need to be able to grasp and develop,” said Anqunette Parham, executive director of the Health and Human Services Department.

Nine out of 10 adults struggle with health literacy, according to the National Library of Medicine. The Rockford Ready initiative aims to build those skills at a young age so they pay dividends later in life. By using poetry and the arts, it’s meant to make the message more digestible and relatable. Rucker said it can also bring joy to difficult or painful situations when people are able to experience it through the arts.

Rockford Ready has also utilized various forms of artistic expression to build self-efficacy around health. That includes poetry and paintings, including a mural going on the Jenkins Community Resource Center in southwest Rockford.

“It makes learning more fun and makes the message easier to understand,” Rucker said. “It just brings joy into the situation.”

Trinity Rucker sings with the YES Club on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, during Juneteenth celebrations at Sinnissippi Park in Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

For Rucker, 13, being tasked with spreading a message about health literacy first challenged her to educate herself about a topic that isn’t top of mind for most middle schoolers.

“I feel like Trinity grew in that educational part about her health,” said Darlene Titsworth, Rucker’s mother. “It was a way for her to mature in that area, as far as what all it takes when she goes to the doctor.”

Rucker agreed with that assessment.

“I don’t think I would have ever grown in the health field if it weren’t for this project,” she said. “I learned how to take the time, to do the research to ask my doctor questions.”

Rucker was named the city’s youth poet in January after earning praise for vivid writing that displayed maturity beyond her years.

Initially, her poetry was focused around messages of Black empowerment. In this latest poem, she ties Black empowerment to taking control of your health care with the line “I shout Black power, now I’m finally getting mine.”

“My ancestors fought for us to have health care, to be able to go to school, to be able to even get educated,” Rucker told the Current. “For me to really tap into that freedom and tap into those privileges, that is really Black power to me.”


This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at khaas@rockrivercurrent.com or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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