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Tennessee Poetry Out Loud Contest: Meet the Student Competitors


From Meredith Callis, Arts Education Special Project Coordinator –

POL logo 2018The 2018 Tennessee Poetry Out Loud (POL) Contest will be held in the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday, March 10, 2018. The contest begins at 10:00 a.m. and is free and open to the public.

Meet the nineteen students will be participating from across the state:

Jenna Azzouz, Baylor School
Jenna is an eleventh grader from Chattanooga. She is an honors math and science scholar, an AP student of Spanish and history, and a talented artist. She is deeply involved in the arts at Baylor, as she has participated in the Inner Circle film club, worked with the theater program, contributed to the campus arts magazine, and refined her artistic skills through multiple drawing and painting courses. She also actively participates in Baylor’s Walkabout program.

Grayson Brawner, Cumberland County High School
Grayson is currently a senior at Cumberland County High School. He has enjoyed fabricating props and being resident “living spaghetti” for the CCHS Jet Theatrix Drama Club over the last three years. He has worked on over 6 productions, including a role at the Cumberland County Playhouse, and he has loved every second of it. During his tenure on and offstage, he has grown a deep appreciation for the art of poetry.

Kiya Brown, Hutchison School
Kiya loves to write and perform her own poetry. Poetry Out Loud has been a fun experience for Kiya because it has exposed her to other poets, which in turn has inspired her own writing. Kiya is thrilled to spend time with so many other people who love poetry as much as she does. In addition to poetry, Kiya participates in a range of sports, including basketball and volleyball.

Preston Cates, Harding Academy of Memphis
Preston attends Harding Academy of Memphis where he participates in all of their theatre productions. His favorite role played was Mr. Beaver in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He is an active leader in many school clubs such as SGA, photography club, and the International Thespian Society. Preston enjoys both theatre and poetry.

Kianna Clark, Humboldt Jr/Sr High School
Kianna (or Keke as she’s called by her classmates) is currently a junior who is active in the Journalism Club and has been a part of the softball program, the FFA, and in the BETA Club. Kianna is also an avid fungus wrangler, co-founder of the Bring Back Disco campaign at our school, and an amateur mannequin.

Alyvia Crawley, Clarksville High School
Alyvia is a junior at Clarksville High School. She is well known for being a complete nerd in just about every subject, a huge bibliophile, and a Bible scholar. She first got into memorization and recitation at a young age through a church program called Awanas and has been doing, loving, and learning from it ever since! Shane Embury, Hardin Valley Academy
Shane is a junior who enjoys listening to Wayfair commercials and overusing sarcasm. She thinks she’s cooler than her older sister, and some people agree. Her ultimate dream is to make a music video parody entitled “The Real Slim Shaney” and broadcast it to her school. Alex Grant, Bartlett High School
Alex comes from a large family. He loves rap music, specially Childish Gambino. He spends lots of time every day playing his favorite video game, Tekken. Beyond music and video games, Alex loves philosophy especially Albert Camus. This is his first experience with poetry and has learned to love it.

Rebecca Fitts, Holloway High School
Rebecca is a very artistic and introspective person. She is a very caring and has a contagious smile. Much of her spare time is devoted to the well-being of both animals and the people around her. She is excited to have the opportunity to step outside of her comfort zone and participate in the Poetry Out Loud event.

Tucker Greene, Clayton Bradley Academy
Tucker enjoys learning about different cultures through travel and art: Michael Angelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, Monet’s Poppies in Musée d’Orsay, Paolo Veronese’s Wedding at Cana in the Louvre. All provide a deeper look into human emotions and are just some of Tucker’s favorites that he’s experienced. Art has always impacted Tucker deeply and this continues in his newfound interest in poetry.

Cheyenne Hawkins, Volunteer High School
Cheyenne is a senior at Volunteer High School and will be attending Tennessee Tech University in the fall to study psychology. She practices her poetry skills by reading to her pet bird Basil. Her love for poetry started at a young age, thanks to her mother, and has continued to grow since.

William Kindoll, Kindoll Academy
William is an active member in DeMolay International. He also works in the Youth Cr3w at the Adventure Science Center. This summer, he will be attending Advanced Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. He hopes to be an aerospace engineer some day. Ansley Moore, Franklin Road Academy
Ansley is a senior at Franklin Road Academy and this is her fourth time representing FRA at the Poetry Out Loud State Finals. In her free time she enjoys participating in plays and musicals, working for her school newspaper, and picnicking.

Mollie Reed, Fairview High School
Mollie is a Senior at Fairview High School. She is involved in STARS, Speech and Debate, Model UN, Youth in Government, and Thespian Society. She loves acting and has been singing opera since she was three years old. She loves her best friend, Brittney and her boyfriend, Emery.

Jerry Ruiz, Brighton High School
Jerry is a romantic musician, occasionally performing on his ukelele, so one can see why he has a deep love for poetry. He is very outgoing and friendly, and his hobbies include making new friends and writing music. Poetry entered his life as an outlet to express himself, and without it, he would not be the confident young man he is today.

Reuben Savage, Central Magnet School
Reuben, a senior at Central Magnet School, is an AP Scholar with Distinction and National Merit Semi-Finalist. In the fall, he will attend MTSU as a Buchanan Fellow. In his spare time, he can be found making customers happy at Demos.’

Phoenix Tarpy, McEwen High School
Phoenix is a senior at McEwen High School. This is her third and final year of Poetry Out Loud. She would like to thank her parents for pushing her into performing at the Roxy because she was “the most dramatic 10 year-old ever”. Because of her found love for public speaking, she has decided to major in political science, but still has high hopes for her dog farm!

Massai Twitty, Haywood High School
Massai is a junior at Haywood High School striving to make his community a better place. He is performing in “High School Musical” at HHS this spring and is loving the songs. He enjoys creative writing and also drawing and photography. He has been a big Harry Potter fan since second grade. Massai plans to attend the University of Memphis and get involved in theater.

Brittany Wilkerson, Anderson County High School
Brittany is a junior at Anderson County High School. She is a sweet, hardworking, and intelligent young lady who enjoys playing basketball, runs track, and aspires to own her own realty company someday.

The contest schedule is as follows:

10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.        Round 1

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.        Lunch

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.         Round 2

2:00 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.           Break

2:10 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.           Finals Round

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.            Awards Presentation

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Similar to the National Spelling Bee, the competition begins at the classroom level as participating teachers use the Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitation and run classroom competitions. Students select, memorize and recite poems from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems.

Each school champion competes in today’s State Finals, where the winner will receive $1,000, as well as a trip with their teacher to represent Tennessee in Washington D.C. at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals. The winning student of the National Finals will receive $20,000, an honor received by a Tennessee student in 2014.

All of us at the Tennessee Arts Commission congratulate the school champions on making it the Ford Theater stage and wish all of the students the best of luck.

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