The Colusa Arts Council showered the three winners of the local Poetry Out Loud contest on April 15 with money and gifts.
The Nationwide Poetry Out Loud program is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts/Poetry Foundation and state and local Councils for the Arts, in which students compete by learning and reciting approved poetry at local, state, and national competitions.
The program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition, said Sharon Reische, executive director of the Colusa County Arts Council.
The local contest is open to all Colusa County high school students.
“This is actually a countywide competition but Colusa High School is the only one that we have been able to get to participate,” Reische said. “We would love for the other high schools to participate.”
The Colusa County Arts Council awarded a Sony Playstation 5 to first place winner Cloitzel Mayte Ahumada.
Ahumada, a Colusa High School senior, also won the 2019 and 2020 local competitions and was first runner-up in the 2020 state competition, which earned her $500 from the Colusa Arts Council.
Ahumada plans to attend California State University, in Chico, in the fall with plans to study theater arts.
The 2021 state finals in March marked the 16th year of the Poetry Out Loud program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. Both the 2020 and 2021 in-person competitions were canceled because of the pandemic, which required students to submit pre-recorded recitations.
All but 11 of California’s counties participated in this year’s event, with 47 county winners who first had to show their merit in their classrooms.
“Every year, in freshman through senior classes, students have to memorize a poem and recite it outloud in their class,” Ahumada said. “Then two from each grade go on to the final round. Last year was the first year we competed in the state competition.”
Salma Gonzales, a 10th grade Colusa High School student, took second place at the local level this year and received $300. She also competed in the state competition.
Gonzales is known for her communication skills, which she was recognized for when she competed in the 2017 Colusa County Mini Miss competition.
Renee Wrysinski, a Colusa High School junior, finished third in the local competition, winning $200.
Wrysinski has competed in public speaking previously as a member of Future Business Leaders of America and is the current California FBLA Secretary.
Wrysinski earned an honorable mention in the 2021 state Poetry Out Loud competition.
The Colusa High School English department facilitates the local Poetry Out Loud Program, said teacher Matt Giffin.
The intent of the program is to get all the schools in Colusa County involved so the students can compete against each other.
“We start talking to them in the fall but we have the competition right after Christmas,” Giffin said.
The county winner has to be chosen by mid-February. The state competition is typically held in Sacramento in March. The winner of the state then competes at the national competition for a $20,000 scholarship.
“All the competitions are paid for,” Reische said. “So the students get to travel.”
High Schools interested in competing in the 2022 local contest should contact Reische at the Arts Council or Giffin at Colusa High School.