Oak Park High School Student Wins Park University’s Poetry Out Loud Regional

Sierra Sheppard, a junior at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo., was selected as the winner of the 2013 Poetry Out Loud regional competition that was held at Park University on Feb. 19.

At the Park University regional competition, Sheppard bested students from six other Kansas City area schools with her recitations of “Bright Star,” by John Keats; “The Empty Dance Shoes,” by Cornelius Eady; and “Famous,” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Sheppard, along with winners from nine other regional sites in Missouri, moves on to compete at the state finals, held Thursday, March 14, at the Etta and Joseph Miller Performing Arts Center in Jefferson City. The state champion receives an all-expense paid trip (with two parents or other chaperones) to Washington, D.C., for the national finals, Monday-Tuesday, April 29-30. At the national finals, winners will receive $50,000 total in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud national champion. In addition, Sheppard will read her poems on Tuesday, April 2, during Caroline Kennedy’s “Conversation with Vivien Jennings” event at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partner with U.S. state arts agencies, including the Missouri Arts Council, to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

Judges for Park’s regional competition were Rhiannon Dickerson and Lesley Wheeler, adjunct instructors of English; Gabriela Lemmons, a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective; and Glenn Lester, English lecturer, who also served as the accuracy judge. Brian Shawver, associate professor of English, served as regional coordinator for the event.

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