National Endowment for the Arts Announces 2007 National Winner of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest
Washington, DC senior Amanda Fernandez and Arlington, Virginia sophomore Alanna Rivera win first and third prize in national poetry competition
May 2, 2007
Washington, DC -- With a powerful command of the stage, Duke Ellington School of the Arts senior Amanda Fernandez riveted audiences with "Ma Rainey," a vibrant portrait of rural African American life by poet Sterling A. Brown. This was one of three recitations that earned Fernandez the title of 2007 Poetry Out Loud National Champion and a $20,000 scholarship prize. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held last night at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Fernandez was among 12 finalists and 51 state champions from around the country who participated in the second national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the National Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation.
"This has been the most nerve wracking, intense, exciting, and rewarding experience of my life," said Fernandez. She credits her English teacher, who organized a Poetry Out Loud contest for her class and encouraged her with his passion for poetry. Fernandez advanced to National Champion from a field of competition that involved more than 1,000 high schools and more than 100,000 high school students across the country.
Fernandez received a $20,000 scholarship prize as Poetry Out Loud national champion. The second-place winner was Branden Emanual Wellington of Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, who received a $10,000 scholarship prize. The Virginia State Champion, Alanna Rivera, of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, received the third place prize and a $5,000 scholarship. In addition, each of the top 12 finalists received a $1,000 scholarship prize; Southwest Airlines provided each finalist with two roundtrip airline tickets. The finalists' schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books.
The other 12 finalists include Naja Selby of New Jersey, Elizabeth Ann McCormick of West Virginia, Robi Mahan of Illinois, Dean Muir of Kentucky, Shuqiao Song of Nebraska, Joshua Kelly of Montana, Fantasia Lonjose of New Mexico, Janessa Nickell of South Dakota, and Amanda E. Fujiki of Utah.
Special guest judges presided over the competition, including Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion;" poets Marilyn Chin and Kwame Dawes; Dominique Raccah, founder and CEO of Sourcebooks, Inc.; Steve Karesh of XM Satellite Radio; and last year's National Champion Jackson Hille. Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, served as master of ceremonies.
On April 30, 51 high school students -- Poetry Out Loud champions from every state and the District of Columbia -- competed in three semifinal rounds based on geographic region. Twelve students advanced to compete in the National Finals on May 1. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy. Students performed poems from the Poetry Out Loud print and online anthologies (www.poetryoutloud.org). The event was the culmination of a pyramid-structure competition that began in January among schools in every state and the District of Columbia.
The National Finals are the culmination of efforts by many partners. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and prizes for both the state and National Finals. Each State Arts Agency implemented the program in high schools in each state, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals was administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Additional support for the 2007 National Finals has been provided by Southwest Airlines.
Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music among youth. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Now in its second year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. To find out how to get involved in the 2008 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.
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About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency