2023 SBCEO Poetry Slam winners, from left: Litzy Matematico, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Melinda Palacio, Samantha McDonald, Natalie Lancor. | Credit: Courtesy SBCEO

High school students performed their original and powerfully written poetry on Thursday, May 4, 2023. 

The students were scored on performance elements, such as facial expressions, delivery, and enthusiasm as Ernest Righetti High School 10th grader Samantha McDonald took first place. Litzy Matematico (10th grade) and Natalie Lancor (11th grade) from Ernest Righetti High School tied for second as all three teens inspired the crowd with their creative performances.

SBCEO Poetry Slam Champion Samantha McDonald | Credit: Courtesy SBCEO

The SBCEO Poetry Slam Contest, a program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, celebrates creative expression and is an inclusive space for poetry and performance. The program combines writing, performance, and audience participation as they explore meaningful topics that impact their world. 

SBCEO has partnered with Los Angeles–based nonprofit Get Lit — Words Ignite to support students and teachers in learning about spoken-word poetry and to provide coaching and support in order to create meaningful literary works. 

“Spoken-word poetry provides students a stage to be unapologetic truth-tellers and to use the power of language and authentic performance” said Associate Superintendent of SBCEO Curriculum and Instruction Ellen Barger.

County Superintendent of Schools, Susan Salcido, offered her congratulations to the participants, saying that “the students transformed written poems to a new level of brave artistry and creative expression.”


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