Jessica Ayala, writer-in-residence at Charlotte Street Foundation, is a Kansas City poet, writer, director and activist. She immigrated to the United States at the age of four with both of her parents from Colombia, South America. She is the eldest of five sisters.
Ayala published her first series of poems at the age of eight for The Young Authors Conference. She is the recipient of the 2000 Missouri's Speaker of the Year award by the Metropolitan Community College League of Competitive Acting and Poetry. Additionally, she is the recipient of the 2010 Legacy Award for outstanding contribution to the Arts and Social Justice for MCCKC.
Ayala began her community work in 2001 when she became the Program Director for Sacred Heart Guadalupe Church discovering more than half of her students could not attend college due to their immigration status. She co-founded the organization Sons and Daughters of Immigrants in 2004 which lead several local rallies raising awareness about the Dream Act creating a voice for advocacy in Jefferson City, Missouri. Her current work, The Martin Project, brings attention the number of children who have died to gun violence in Kansas City. She is also organizing with Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation bridging safe places for families under the new administration.
Jessica’s current poetic memoir, Just A Kid From Ipiales, will be released spring of 2018 highlighting her extraordinary journey as an immigrant youth in America. She will join this year’s prestigious list of POP! Poetry writers where her writing will be featured on Saturday, August 26th at Prospero’s Books in Kansas City, Missouri.