A broad-faced Latino with a bigger heart than fist, Gabriel Giron capitalizes on the scars of a difficult and angry past. After lazily making his way through high school, Gabriel felt oddly drawn to the military, seeking to secure an education and a bit of discipline. Eight months into his enlistment, he was diagnosed with stage 3B testicular cancer. He underwent heavy cycles of chemotherapy and several surgeries, spending three years in treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is now deemed cancer free. The days spent wondering whether he would live or die gave him a newfound perspective on life.
A prior student of film and creative writing at Western Michigan University, Gabriel sees everything in life as an opportunity for self-discovery. Though he never intended to share his past experiences and poetry with anyone, Gabriel discovered that his words connected powerfully with other people and became a way for him to cope and learn from his own experiences. He found that sharing his stories enabled others to explore and learn from their own.
After being named class bully and class poet in high school, Gabriel realized he was battling two sides of himself, uncertain of who he was or what he wanted from his life. His reflection on cancer survival, military experience, and family relationships has enabled him to write on topics with unique vulnerability not commonly explored or spoken by others. Gabriel has discovered that by simply sharing his stories and speaking the truth he sees around him, others are inspired to share their own stories, making poetry real, honest, and accessible regardless of age, class or gender.
Now dressed in slacks, dress shirt and tie, few would recognize the history of a violent fighter in Kirk Latimer. A past filled with aggression inside and outside the ring, led Kirk to turn his anger from his color-trunked opponents toward himself, resulting in his arrest at the age of sixteen. He continued a cycle of vengeance and retribution until his senior year of high school when five of his friends and classmates committed suicide. It took him nearly six months to cry over his loss, the first step towards changing the course of his life.
Previously an acting coach and high school English teacher—known for his crazy and unique style—Kirk recognizes the importance and value in each of his students. Through sharing himself and his past experiences, Kirk seeks to change minds and hearts, while also challenging our outdated educational system.
Kirk’s transformation from a violent boxer to a highly awarded English Education major at Western Michigan University, enabled him to write poetry that reflected on life as an open learning experience, one in which everyone is a student and no one is without fault. His style of writing evolved from his dedication to academics, the explosive power required of a boxer, and the unique juxtaposition of a prankster loving nature. Kirk discovered a way to convert his inner turmoil and aggressiveness into a passionate and impacting learning experience. His fiery energy now fuels the learning of his students and is channeled into the creative power of his writing and dynamic performance.