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Harrells, NC, – Harrells Christian Academy hosted its fifth annual Poetry Out Loud recitation competition this past January.  The evening event featured 11 high school students from HCA who recited two memorized poems in two rounds of competition for a panel of three distinguished judges as well as a crowd of family, friends, and teachers.

The competition ended with the first tie in its history.  After applying the tiebreaking rules, senior Caroline Jones of Kenansville came out on top and will represent HCA at the state Poetry Out Loud competition in March.  Caroline is no stranger to the winner’s circle, having been named the winner of this event in three of the past four years.  Her winning poems were “The Obligation to be Happy” by Linda Pastan and “A Song in the Front Yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks.  Sophomore Aidan Kunst of Clinton placed second, and senior Lucas Thornton of Teachey finished third.

Natalie Pope, English teacher and Poetry Out Loud sponsor, said, “This year’s competition featured some of the best and brightest young minds our school has to offer.  The competition was more intense than ever, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how invested many of these young competitors have become in the five years Harrells has been participating in Poetry Out Loud.  As a teacher, it is so rewarding to see your students have an experience with a poem; they’re not just memorizing it and reciting it. These students are actually connecting to the authors and the messages of these poems.  It is magical to see them make that discovery on stage.”

The evening performances of the finalists were the culmination of a program that begins in each English classroom.  Every student in the high school chooses a poem, does research and learns about the poem, and then memorizes and performs the poem in his or her English classroom.  The competition is a wonderful way to practice public speaking and performance.

Poetry Out Loud is a national competition run by the Poetry Foundation in Chicago and the National Endowment for the Arts. Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state, Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.