Monterey County's Morgan Brown to represent California in Poetry Out Loud nationals
Christian Sanchez-Bartz from Los Angeles County took second, and Cheryl Evans from Contra Costa County was third in an extremely close competition in the state Senate Chambers
Morgan Brown from Monterey County (a junior at Pacific Grove High School -- age 16) took first place and will represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. in April. Taking second was Christian Sanchez-Bartz from Los Angeles County (a junior at Millikan High School in Long Beach), and Cheryl Evans from Contra Costa County (a senior at Deer Valley High School) placed third.
"This year's competing students were all fantastic," said Muriel Johnson, Director of the California Arts Council. "The competition was very close, and extremely high scoring. We look forward to having Morgan Brown represent our great state in Washington, DC, in April."
Johnson emphasized the talent of all the competitors today on the Senate floor as various representatives of the California Legislature came to meet their Poetry Out Loud local winners.
"These 27 were the top of the 40,000 students who participated in the California Poetry Out Loud program, where students learn about poetry, improve their language skills and advance their creative-thinking processes. All these students are winners."
Three other students -- Maya Haines of Sacramento County (C.K. McClatchy High School), Xochil Goretsky of Mendocino County (Mendocino High School) and Catherine Hall of San Luis Obispo County (Mission College Preparatory High School) -- also competed in the final round.
This year marks the fifth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition -- the largest of its kind, providing over 40,000 of the nation's 300,000 participants. Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California State Finals were recorded by the multi-media staff in the Senate and re-broadcast live on the California Channel and at www.calchannel.com.
The California state finals is the state's culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee). The national Poetry Out Loud program began six years ago, and each state sends a winner to the national finals. The California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 and go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, with the winner's school receiving $500 for poetry books. The California runner-up receives $100, with his school receiving $200 for books. Target, a sponsor of the program, provides gift certificates for all county winners as well as other prizes.
The state's Poetry Out Loud program is directed by the California Arts Council, and was initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level. 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. The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of readers and strengthen students' confidence in their public-speaking abilities by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance.
More general information, including a list of poems the students may choose to recite, can be found at www.poetryoutloud.org, and a list of the poems the students recited may be found on the California Arts Council website. A summary of the NEA Reading at Risk report can be found at www.nea.gov/news/news04/ReadingAtRisk.html. Members of the press interested in contacting county winners may contact Mary Beth Barber, California Arts Council's communications director, at 916-322-5688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.