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High School Student wins $20,000 and the title of 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

April 27th, 2017
Poetry Foundation President Henry Bienen and NEA Chairman Jane Chu with 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Samara Elán Huggins. Photo by James Kegley.

CHICAGO-- On April 26, 2017, Samara Elán Huggins, a senior at Whitefield Academy from Mableton, Georgia, won the title of 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Champion and a $20,000 prize. Huggins won the final round with her recitation of "The Farmer" by W. D. Erhart.

The second-place winner was Nicholas Amador, a junior at Punahou School from Honolulu, Hawaii.

The third-place winner was Iree Mann, a junior at Syosset High School from Jericho, New York.

Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and the state arts agencies that encourages high school students to learn more about great poetry, both classic and contemporary, through memorization and performance. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, DC included 53 students out of 310,000 competitors from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Students and schools received $50,000 in awards and school stipends at the National Finals, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. The fourth- to ninth-place finalists each received $1,000. The schools of the top nine finalists received $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

Huggins, who has participated in Poetry Out Loud since her freshman year of high school, says,  "I think that as humans we are innately creative beings and that we need to be able to express ourselves in multiple artistic ways. Poetry is one of the ways I do it." She heads to New York's Pratt Institute this fall to study fashion design. 

The 53 state champions competing at the National Finals also had the opportunity to showcase their creativity through an optional competition, Poetry Ourselves. The students could submit an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem, both of which were judged by poet Naomi Shihab Nye and announced at last night’s national finals. Theo Cai, from Hockaday School in Texas placed first in the written category, while second place went to Megan Kim from Cascade Christian High School in Oregon. In the spoken category, top honors went to Shelby Newland, from Bloomington High School South in Indiana, with second place going to Gabrielle D. Kunzika, from Classical Magnet School in Connecticut. Winning poems may be featured on the NEA and Poetry Out Loud websites.

Since 2005, 3.3 million students from across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud. High school teachers who want to learn how to get involved in next year's program can learn more at www.poetryoutloud.org

Photos of the nine finalists from the April 25 semifinals and April 26 finals are available here. Email auclaire@arts.gov to request video. Read more about the 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Finals at the NEA Art Works blog.

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About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit poetryfoundation.org.

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