Joanna Ramos was a 5th-grade, eleven-year-old girl who got caught up in a fight and died as a result of a hit to the head last year. When I saw her photo on TV, smiling and full of joy, I knew we’d lost a beautiful child and that I had to do something. A few weeks later I was appointed as Laureate. 

On Friday, April 19th, at the University of California – Riverside, sponsored by the Gluck Fellows Program, we launched the “i-Promise Joanna – End Bullying Project”—a 5th grade initiative that I am encouraging our schools to kickstart throughout the state.

David Campos, a superb MFA poet on campus, gave workshops for the students. They painted posters as groups and headed back to school with action projects for their entire campus: an “End Bullying Club” and an “End Bullying Carnival” two groups brainstormed on stage…all with poetry, art, and the voices of the amazing 5th graders at Town Gate Elementary in Moreno Valley!

I plan to put up the work of the students on my UC Riverside website along with an “i-PJ” download pack for interested schools. Students get an “i-PJ” project membership card, too.

We’re in this together.

Juan Felipe Herrera, California Poet Laureate, is guest blogging for us this summer about his latest poetry projects. Want to learn more? Visit his site at