Oak Ridge senior Rebecca Shields took first place in El Dorado County’s “Poetry Out Loud” competition on Feb. 2.
Shields was one of thousands of students across the state to participate in the national recitation contest, a program run by the California Arts Council in the state and started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance.
Shields advances to the California state finals in Sacramento on March 20 and 21. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of “Poetry Out Loud.”
This was El Dorado County’s second year participating in the “Poetry Out Loud” program, which was sponsored by El Dorado Arts Council and underwritten in part by a contribution from the El Dorado Community Foundation.
“This year’s field of contestants was stunning,” said Moira Magneson, “Poetry Out Loud” coordinator for the El Dorado Arts Council. “I did not envy the judges; theirs was a hard job. The students were remarkable for the poise and passion with which they recited their poems.”
Six students from six county high schools participated in the finals, including Serena Mora, second place winner from Ponderosa High School and MaryAnn Haynie, the third place winner from Golden Sierra High School.
Other finalists were Krisha Penollar from South Tahoe High School in South Lake Tahoe, Olivia Nelson Landen from Shenandoah High School in El Dorado, and Sarah Bourg from the Charter Home School Academy III in El Dorado.
The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report “Reading at Risk” that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.
“Young people interested in rap and slam contests can be surprisingly interested in classical poetry when it’s presented through the ‘Poetry Out Loud’ competition,” said Muriel Johnson, director of the California Arts Council. “We’ve seen students from all backgrounds and academic levels embrace this program wholeheartedly. It can change their lives.”
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