Chigozie Maduchukwu, a junior at Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove, took first place Monday in the 2016 state finals of Poetry Out Loud, earning a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent California in the national finals in May.
This is the first time since the state competition began in 2006 that a student from Sacramento County has won, according to Caitlin Fitzwater, communications director for the California Arts Council, which produces the state contest.
Maduchukwu recited three poems: “Filling Station” by Elizabeth Bishop, “Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth. His English teacher at Pleasant Grove High School is Russell Young.
“Poetry Out Loud is one of my favorite activities to participate in during the school year, mostly because it required me to connect to an artistic and analytical part of myself that I usually don’t engage in during the school year,” Maduchukwu said in a written statement.
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition.
The state finals began Sunday evening at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel and concluded Monday at the state Capitol. The state finals brought together county winners, who had previously competed in classroom, school, district and county contests.
Maduchukwu, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, will receive $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts. His school will receive $500 in books.
Zayan Reza, a junior at El Camino High School in Ventura County, was the first runner-up. Miriam Sachs, a student at Mira Costa High School in Los Angeles County, was second runner-up.
This is the 11th year that the California Arts Council has produced the competition, with more than 40,000 students in 40 counties participating.