White House Committee Names Five Teen Poets for Prestigious National Student Poets Program

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The fourth annual class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP)—the nation’s highest honor for youth poets—has been announced by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The teen poets’ first reading of their original work was hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama in the White House as part of an appointment ceremony. The 2015 class of five National Student Poets was selected from a national pool of more than 20,000 poetry submissions.

“Today is about celebrating these extraordinary young people, but it’s also about bringing the power of poetry to kids across the country,” shared Mrs. Obama, Honorary Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as she congratulated the 2015 class of National Student Poets. She added, “You are now chosen to go out there and spread the word and to share your gift with as many people as you can. It takes a level of bravery to be that vulnerable . . . and share something so personal and so precious. But that is also the beauty of poetry—how it helps you take all those complex and confusing thoughts and emotions and put them into words.”

The National Student Poets Program selects five young writers who show great promise, and invests in the talent of these students through mentorships and workshops on writing and leadership. Each poet is tasked to serve as a literary ambassador with the mission to engage diverse audiences of all ages in the art of poetry by sharing their work, attending events, hosting workshops and leading service projects within their communities. The National Student Poets will next travel to New York City to attend the renowned Poets Forum, presented by the Academy of American Poets.To learn more about the National Student Poets Program, visit www.artandwriting.org/nspp.Representing five different regions of the nation, the 2015 National Student Poets are:

  • Chasity Hale, age 16 of Miami, FL (Southeast Region)
  • De’John Hardges, age 16 of Cleveland, OH (Midwest Region)
  • Eileen Huang, age 15 of Lincroft, NJ (Northeast Region)
  • Anna Lance, age 17 of Anchorage, AK (West Region)
  • David Xiang, age 17 of Little Rock, AR (Southwest Region)

Since its inception in 2011, the National Student Poets Program has showcased the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success for audiences across the country through readings, workshops, webinars, classroom visits and more. As a key component of their year-long ambassadorships, each of the 2015 National Student Poets will create, plan and execute community service projects in their respective regions. Past NSPP community service projects have included hosting writing workshops for military children at the U.S. Army War College and for Native American youth in North Dakota. National Student Poets have also taught poetry as a form of self-expression to LGBT youth at Out Boulder and Rainbow Alley in Colorado and nursing home residents with Alzheimer's disease. Each poet will receive an academic award of $5,000 funded by the Bernstein Family Foundation, and will serve as a resource for the U.S. Department of Education and the Library of Congress. To view a video discussing the history and impact of the program, visit https://vimeo.com/141582461.

All student works in consideration for the National Student Poets Program are judged based on exceptional creativity, dedication to craft and promise by a jury of luminaries and leaders in education and the arts. This year’s panel of judges included Esther Belin (writer and artist), Robert Casper (Head of Poetry and Literature Center, Library of Congress), Carolyn Forché (poet, teacher, activist), Andrea Gibson (poet), Juan Felipe Herrera (novelist and United States Poet Laureate), Edward Hirsch (writer and President of John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation), Alice Quinn (poet and Executive Director of Poetry Society of America), Glenis Redmond (poet), Patricia Smith (poet) and Alfre Woodard (actress and President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Private Member).

Juan Felipe Herrera, United States Poet Laureate and National Student Poets Program juror shared, “If lightening could write, it would pour down through the minds and hands of these fiery National Student Poets. What I mean is that I can feel the intensity of their innermost lives at work—their sky-breaking defiance and their elegant philosophical queries, all line by line in their poetry. I recommend that everyone experience their work and let themselves be lifted and introduced to something like a total awakening."

"Most bright ideas, innovation and new ways of thinking—being, moving, speaking and hearing come from the young,” shared Alfre Woodard, Private Member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and National Student Poets Program juror. “We need poetry and poets in the world, and it starts locally, right in the community to encourage our young people to explore the art form. The National Student Poets Program supports both of these goals by identifying talented youth poets and activating them to encourage creativity in their home towns and beyond. Each of the 2015 National Student Poets has a unique and powerful voice that will travel throughout the nation.”

Students in grades 10 and 11 who are interested in becoming National Student Poets can submit their work throughout the fall to the 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens and the exclusive pathway to be considered for the National Student Poets Program. Deadlines for submissions vary by region. In spring 2016, the Scholastic Art & Writing Award National Medalists in poetry will be eligible for the program.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services and Alliance for Young Artists & Writers are grateful for their valued partners who provide support for the National Student Poets Program: Academy of American Poets, Google and Poetry Foundation. More information about how to apply to the Awards and about NSPP can be found at www.artandwriting.org/NSPP.

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