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Zaskia Villa of Nogales High School is Arizona’s 2015 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Zaskia Villa, a senior at Nogales High School

By Arizona Commission on the Arts

Photos by Alonso Parra, Lamp Left Media

Zaskia Villa, a senior at Nogales High School in Nogales, Arizona, will represent Arizona at the 10th annual Poetry Out Loud National Finals competition in Washington, D.C., in April. Zaskia claimed the title of 2015 Arizona State Champion on Thursday, March 12, at the State Finals competition in Phoenix.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts partners with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, as well as regional and local organizations, to administer the Poetry Out Loud program in Arizona. The contest encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation and helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level.  Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Over 11,000 Arizona students and 47 schools in communities throughout the state participated in Poetry Out Loud this year.

This year’s state finalists included students from Nogales to Window Rock:

Southern Region

  •         Zaskia Villa – Nogales High School, Nogales, AZ
  •         Lena Blackmon – University High School, Tucson, AZ
  •         Caitlin McCormick – The Gregory School, Tucson, AZ

Central Region

  •         Hunter Hazelton – Betty Fairfax High School, Laveen, AZ
  •         Kyrah Berthiaume – McClintock High School, Tempe, AZ
  •         Oluwatosin Babarinde – Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix, AZ

Northern Region

  •         Adriana Hurtado – Tri-City College Prep, Prescott
  •         Jessica Han – Coconino High School, Flagstaff
  •         Courtney Hale – Saint Michael Indian School, St. Michaels, AZ

“The students work hard to get to the finals,” said Robert C. Booker, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. “Watching such a diverse group of exceptional young people from around the state stand tall, recite, and display their understanding and love of poetry is truly remarkable and inspirational. These young people learn skills through this competition that will serve them for a lifetime.”

Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC, (with an adult chaperone) to compete at the National Finals. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. One runner-up receives $100; his or her school receives $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

This will be the first year the state finals event has been presented at the Herberger Theater Center in Downtown Phoenix. Phoenix poet and teaching artist Tomas Stanton will emcee the event. The event will also feature remarks by special guests Alberto Álvaro Ríos, Arizona’s Poet Laureate, and Eleanor Billington, Program Manager in the Literature & Arts Education Division of the National Endowment for the Arts.



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