Madeleine 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. Madeleine now advances to represent Santa Barbara County at the California state finals in Sacramento on March 25th and 26th, 2012. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud in Washington D.C.

Twenty-four high school students competed in last night’s Countywide Competition held at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara. Paul J. Willis, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate served as emcee for the evening and a stellar panel of judges included David Starkey, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emeritus, published poets Chryss Yost, Carol DeCanio, and Peg Quinn. They were charged with the task of selecting a winner and runner up based on criteria that included level of difficulty, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, physical presence, accuracy and overall performance.

Dos Pueblos High School senior Cheryl Wilson placed second for her recitation of “I am the people, the mob” by Carl Sandberg. An honorable mention award was given to Bella Garcia of Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria. Faculty members at the event were commended for their commitment to engaging fellow faculty and students in the Poetry Out Loud program. William Woodard from Dos Pueblos High School, Ben Rothstein, from Pioneer Valley High School, Bojana Hill from Laguna Blanca School, and Poet Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle from El Puente Community School, Carpinteria High School and Rincon Continuation School were all recognized.

The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in the classroom, then at the school, region, state, and national finals, similar to the structure of the spelling bee. 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 Santa Barbara County Arts Commission is a division of the Community Services Department of Santa Barbara County. For more information on other programs of the Arts Commission visit General information on Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Competitions can be found at and


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