‘Poetry Out Loud’ winners head to Springfield

Two area high school students will represent Northern Illinois in the State Poetry Out Loud Competition that will be held in Springfield this Friday.

Olyvia Micklo took home top honors for the area, with Nathan Weimerskirk as first runner up. Ana Plankenhorn is the alternate, the Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) said in a statement. All are students at Jefferson High School.

“This is the twelfth anniversary of Poetry Out Loud,” said Sharon Nesbit-Davis, RAAC interim director and regional coordinator for the event. “It is an impressive program with lesson plans and resources for teachers to instruct and prepare the students for the competition. Participating students gain confidence and public speaking skills along with a deeper understanding and appreciation for poetry.”

The winner of the state competition advances to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals April 25-26 in Washington, DC, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed. The state winner will receive $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington (with adult chaperone) to complete at the National Finals. The state winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

The runner-up will receive $100; his or her school will receive $200 for the purchase of poetry books. A total of $50,000 in scholarship awards and school stipends will be awarded at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, with a $20,000 college scholarship award for the National Champion.

Jefferson High School students Olyvia Micklo (left) and Nathan Weimerskirk will represent the Northern Illinois region in this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition in Springfield. Ana Plankenhorn was named as the alternate. Provided


The Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest is a free national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Poetry Out Loud encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, which help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary heritage.

Last year, over $100,000 in prizes was awarded to students and schools. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

RAAC is one of seven organizations throughout the state that was asked to hold Poetry Out Loud regional competitions. The competition was held at Jefferson High School, with the Jefferson Thespian Troupe hosting the event.

Volunteer judges included: David Causey, Dorothy Paige-Turner, Carol ZuBolton, Kathy Rehwald and Caitlyn Baylor. Claire Rotolo was the prompter and Carole Carbone and Meghan Baylor were the tabulators.

“We hope more schools will provide this opportunity for their students in 2018,” said Nesbit-Davis.

Teachers interested in learning more about Poetry Out Loud should contact Sharon at the Rockford Area Arts Council, 815-963-6765 or email sharon@artsforeveryone.com.

–Staff report

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