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JHS Junior, Olivia Ruiz, Wins WNY Regional Poetry Out Loud Competition

“Which U.S. slang do you speak?” asked JHS junior, Olivia Ruiz, pointing her finger at the Poetry Out Loud judges to win first place in the Western New York Regional competition held in Brockport on February 5th. Now, she’s heading to New York City for the State Finals, where she will compete against twenty-three other regional poetry winners.

In December, Ruiz was one of twenty-nine JHS students who recited poems before an independent panel of judges in the JHS auditorium. The students were evaluated on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and accuracy during their poetry recitation, and the competition was stiff!

The two JHS winners of that contest, Olivia Ruiz and sophomore Stephanie Beriso, traveled to SUNY Brockport to compete against other western New York high school winners. Olivia won the competition with her recitation of three poems: “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy, “Spanglish” by Tato Laviera, and “Silence” by Thomas Hood.

“Reciting changed the way I feel about poetry,” remarked Ruiz. “Once I familiarized myself with the poems, I connected with them on an emotional level. Then I was able to give them to the audience as a gift in my own way.”

On March 7th, Olivia will travel to New York City with JHS English/ Public Speaking teacher, Barbi Price, to compete for the New York State Poetry Out Loud title. The winner of the New York State contest will then proceed to the National Finals at George Washington University in Washington DC, where the winner receives $20,000.00. 

“Olivia has a rich vocal quality and lovely pacing, and she chose poems that showcase the range of her abilities, ” said Mrs. Price. “Her previous JHS recitation and A Cappella/ Madrigal choir singing experience helped her articulate beautifully and perform with maturity and confidence.”

Ruiz added, “Poetry allows me to express myself through someone else’s experiences and expand my view of the world. It’s interesting for me to hear the way that other people recite their poems; they interpret to words so much differently than I would. I am excited to compete in NYC.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partner with state arts agencies to create Poetry Out Loud, a program that invites the dynamic aspects of poetry and the spoken word into JHS English classes. Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self- confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.