Spoken word performer aims high

She hopes to transform young lives nationally and internationally



By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


Julia Sewell’s website (www.sewellspeaks.com) announces her as “a world-renowned public speaker and performer. With over 10 years of experience, [she] brings innovation to the stage and classroom.”

Among a long list of luminaries who attest to her acumen, author Paulo Coelho states, “Julia is more then an amazing person. I met her and it really catapulted my life in a new direction. Her dedication to young people and their power to change the world is beyond expectation and belief.

“She is inspiring and motivating. She continues to influence others outside of her workshops and events. And takes the time to engage with youth and hear them out. I could go on about this woman.

Julia Sewell Photo by Travis Lee
Julia Sewell
Photo by Travis Lee

“If there is one person I would chose to bring to my school or conference it would be Julia. The power of her voice makes others follow their dreams and find who they truly are deep inside. Julia is an open book and the pages go on. Every second you are with her, you find more about her but most importantly more about yourself.”

Faraz Qaisrani concurs that Sewell is “the epitome of a leader. I had the good fortune of attending a National Youth Leadership Training camp under her supervision, and I can honestly say she changed my life. She was the first person to inform me about our country’s most prominent issues.

“Julia is the reason I am aware of concepts such as “achievement gap” and “educational inequity.” I consider her to be my generation’s general in the battle to close the gap. She has empowered thousands to go out and make a profound difference.”

Tall talk, indeed. However, her credits impress. A mere partial listing includes nearly a dozen appearances as keynote speaker at, among other prestigious events, the National Service Learning Conference, Taking back the night” at Tusculum College and at Operation Reach “Youth Change Awards Dinner” in New Orleans.

Additionally, she has performed spoken word all over the country, not the least being at a Service-Learning workshop at the National Service Learning Conference (San Jose), the 25th National Service Learning Conference in Nashville and, most recently, the 19th Annual Cecil E. Newman Scholarship Awards and Graduation Celebration Dinner.

Reached by email prior to the Cecil E. Newman Scholarship event, she reflected, “It is my pleasure to perform…because I believe in giving back.” An accounting of her accomplishments goes on to note numerous stints as public speaker, facilitator and performer. “I have spoken”, she recalled, “at over 150 conferences and events, to hundreds and thousands of youth and practitioners.”

Looking back to her beginnings, she stated, “I was blessed to [start] my career as a professional motivational speaker and spoken word artist at the age of 12. I was asked to speak in front of a crowd of thousands and, upon successful completion, my career began.

“Before I ever started performing, however, I had a love of people and service. I received this passion from my mother, who, to this day, is the reason I am able to do what I love. After speaking at a major conference, lots of other conferences and nonprofits wanted me to speak with their youth. I worked to come up with lectures, workshops and material that would educate, inspire and engage young people flawlessly.

“I was able to create material and workshops that did just that. I served on several national boards and was chosen to represent the United States in an international leadership program. These opportunities opened so many doors for me.”

That said, along with believing in giving back, she puts into practice the popular phrase “Pay it forward.” And created “the youth development curriculum that I am currently putting into schools, S.W.A.G. (Spoken Words Affecting a Generation).”

It was devised while she spent time living in New York City. “I saw that schools lacked an affecting, engaging and inspiring program that would change the dynamic of how our young people think. The achievement gap, to me, is a belief gap. So, I created SWAG to challenge the belief gap, to open up the minds of our young people to their greatness.

“SWAG is a year-long, engaging and effective curriculum that engages, inspires and exposes young people to success and to greatness at a young age. I am currently looking for schools [that] are willing to take a chance to positively transform the lives of our young people and to partner with us to put SWAG into their school. SWAG is truly one of a kind. It works in a variety of contexts with all youth involved despite color and social context.”

What’s next? “I want to take SWAG national, then international. I know that it will work in any context, and I am excited to watch my passion grow to affect the lives of many young people. SWAG is so amazing to me because it gives young adults opportunities to do what they love with [those] whom they love, the young people of our communities.

“It changes the dynamic of success and makes it attainable to all youth that wish to achieve it. SWAG will be an international program that breaks down barriers, opens doors to those to whom they’ve been closed.”


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 


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