Remembering Kevin Nelson, 1985-2004

Some teenagers are gym rats– kids who play ball in their school’s gym at lunch, breaks, before school, after school. Kevin A. Nelson, II was a Writing Center rat. He was in the Writing Center often during his junior and senior years at Archbishop Carroll High School. He might have been writing, re-writing, surfing the computers, or just generally hanging around. Kevin was a son, friend, student, poet, and many other things, like most teenage boys. In his senior year at Carroll, he served as the MC of our poetry slams. His writing appeared in two editions of Carroll’s literary magazine, So It Shall Be Written, and he was part of a group of Carroll poets who read their work at open mics around the city. He graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in 2003 and went to Xavier University in New Orleans. In August of 2004 he died in Maryland.

It’s hard to imagine he would be 28 years old today. It’s hard to imagine he graduated from Carroll more than ten years ago. For some of his friends, he’s frozen in time at eighteen years old– a hilarious, smart, silly, sometimes wild teenager. Sometime, I imagine what he’d be like at 28. I suspect he’d still be hilarious, smart, silly, and sometimes wild. He’d be taking care of his mom and family, still making lots of his friends laugh. I hope he’d still be writing. He was a prolific writer and editor of his own work– unusual for a teenage writer. In 2004, we put many of his poems together in a collection called Fire and Sky.

For myself, as his teacher and friend, I savor my memories of Kevin. His poems have encouraged many young people to write. I know because I’ve used them in classrooms. His memory is kept alive beautifully at Carroll in the Kevin A. Nelson, II Scholarship and the Kevin A. Nelson, II Writing Award. Both have been awarded at Carroll since 2004. Like all griefs, this one changes over time. But not in a straight line. I’m glad for memories. I’m glad many of us remember Kevin. If his life urges me toward anything it’s that life matters. Young people matter. Today matters.

May of 2014 will mark ten years since his death and we’ll certainly be awarding the KAN2 Scholarship and KAN2 Writing Award again. Maybe there will be some other plans to mark that occasion too. You can always support those funds at



Published by josephrossnet

Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

One thought on “Remembering Kevin Nelson, 1985-2004

  1. This was a beautiful writing for Kevin, Mr. Ross. I am Tiffany Robinson formerly Canty, was the class of 2005. I wish I had the honor to have been one of your students as I heard tremendous things about your class etc. I still can learn from you by just watching and seeing what you post on your facebook page :). I am glad to see you are doing well. I know Kevin is watching us all and seeing all that we are doing to make our lives better and to push others towards the right path.


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