• Mary Harrison

CHS English Department holds first annual Poetry Out Loud competition

Students who performed at the school-wide Poetry Out Loud contest on Thursday: front row (l-r) Robyn Conyers, Jamyra Harrell, Katie Roberts, Aushjua Walden, Kenna Anderson, and Jimena Chalchi; back row (l-r) Anna Rinker, Lauren Jones, Assyria Cooper, Olivia Woods, Danashya Sanders, Sara Lokey, Julianea Whitehead, Case Williams, and Aiden Wisham.

The Cairo High School English Department hosted its first annual Poetry Out Loud competition for students on Thursday, January 30 in the CHS auditorium. Cash prizes were awarded to first, second, and third place winners Jamyra Harrell, Julianea Whitehead, and Kenna Anderson. Jamyra will represent Cairo High at a regional competition in two weeks.

According to the organization’s official website, “Poetry Out Loud [POL] is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.” While POL began in 2005, this is the first year Cairo High School has participated in it.

Each student in participating English classrooms chose a poem from an extensive list on POL’s website to memorize and perform in front of their class. Then, teachers selected the student with the best performance to compete against other selected students at Cairo High School.

Sophomore Jamyra Harrell won the competition with her recitation of “Song of the Powers” by David Mason.

Jamyra (middle) won first place, Julianea (right) nabbed second place, and Kenna (left) took third place at the school final on Thursday.

Sophomore Julianea Whitehead came in second place with a rendition of Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night,” and Junior Kenna Anderson secured third with “Semi-Splendid” by Tracy K. Smith.

Students competed for prizes of $50, $30, and $20, as well as the chance to represent CHS at POL’s South Georgia regional competition in McRae-Helena, Ga., on Saturday, February 15. If Jamyra advances past the regional and state competitions, the 10th grader will win $500 for Cairo High School to purchase poetry materials, $200 for herself, and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington to compete in Poetry Out Loud’s national competition on April 27-29.

Other competitors in the first annual school-wide competition included Freshmen Robyn Conyers, Lauren Jones, Sara Lokey, Anna Rinker, and Katie Roberts; Sophomores Jimena Chalchi, Assyria Cooper, Danashya Sanders, Justin Williams, Aiden Wisham, and Olivia Woods; and Junior Aushjua Walden.

Mrs. LeGette (left) and Ms. Adkins (right), CHS English teachers, organized Cairo High's first annual Poetry Out Loud competition.

CHS English teachers Ms. Brandi Adkins and Mrs. Austin LeGette spearheaded starting POL at CHS, Ms. Adkins shared. The duo learned about this opportunity last fall from fellow English instructor Mr. Alex Papanicolopoulos, so they researched the opportunity and encouraged their coworkers in the English Department to organize classroom competitions this spring.

At the school wide final, which occurred around 2–3 p.m. on Thursday, Ms. Emily Bearden, CHS math teacher, graded how accurately students recited their poems at the school final, while CHS Assistant Principal Mrs. Natalie Hudson and 10th–11th grade counselor Mrs. Brittany De Plato judged students’ overall performance. Mrs. LeGette and Mr. Papanicolopoulos then tallied and presented the results.

Ms. Adkins says that she and her colleagues in the English Department “wanted to take poetry out of the classroom and into the community, onto the stage."

“We want kids to know that you can apply literature to more than just [tests and classwork] and to make sure that [every student] is getting an outlet to be creative… With Poetry Out Loud, kids get to interact with the classics while also putting your own dramatic spin on it.”

Enjoy the following pictures from the program!

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