2008 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Wheaton Warrenville South High School Senior Advances to National Competition

Springfield – On Thursday, March 6, fourteen high school students from every geographic region of Illinois competed in the Illinois State Finals of the 2008 Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. Held at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield, the event was the state-level competition in a free national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that began in January among schools throughout the state and country and concludes at the National Finals in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 2008.

Students performed poems from the Poetry Out Loud print and online anthologies (www.poetryoutloud.org). Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy.

Mark Schmidt, a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, was named Illinois Champion. Schmidt will receive a $200 prize and Wheaton Warrenville South High School will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books for the school library resulting from his first place finish. He will also advance to the National Finals in Washington, D.C., in April, along with the winners from every state and Washington, D.C., to compete for a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends.

Heidy A. Alvarado of Howard Taft High School in Chicago was named Illinois Runner-Up. She will receive a $100 prize and her high school will receive $200 for the purchase of poetry books for the school library.

Three other participants moved to the final round of competition. They were Laila Abdo of Harrisburg High School, Tia Jenkins of Edwardsville High School and Kareem Sayegh of University Laboratory High School in Urbana. Nine (9) other participants in the Illinois State Finals of the Poetry Out Loud contest included Jeremy Busby of Beck Area Career Center in Red Bud, Kelsey Cunningham and CeCe Frey of Mt. Zion High School, Paul Anderson & Paul Gustafson of Moline High School, Alexis Lambert-Johnson of Auburn High School in Rockford, Emily Newbold of McHenry West Campus, Samantha Porter of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School and Suhaila Meera of Carbondale Community High School.

Illinois’ Poetry Out Loud State Final, organized by the Springfield Area Arts Council’s Assistant Director, Penny Wollan-Kriel, was a collaborative effort among seven local arts organizations with whom the Illinois Arts Council partnered this year throughout the state to implement the program. For more specific information regarding regional competitions please contact the appropriate regional partner: 

Central IllinoisSpringfield Area Arts CouncilPenny Wollan-Kriel
ChicagolandLiterature for All of UsLiz McCabeliz@literatureforallofus.org
Eastern Illinois40 North/88 West (Champaign)Steven Bentzsbentz@40north.org
Northern IllinoisRockford Area Arts CouncilSharon Nesbit-Davissharon@artsforeveryone.com
South Central IllinoisMadison County Arts CouncilGenece Hambyinfo@jacobyartscenter.org
Southern IllinoisCarbondale Community ArtsNancy Stempercca@neondsl.com
Western IllinoisQuad City Arts (Rock Island)Ryan Collinsrcollins@quadcityarts.com

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. The program will enter its fourth year during the 2008–2009 academic year. Those interested in getting involved in the 2009 Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest should visit www.poetryoutloud.org and contact Alex A.G. Shapiro at the Illinois Arts Council for more details.