Seven area students vie for trip to Missouri state championship in March.


Maya Angelou. Paul Laurence Dunbar. W.E.B. Du Bois.POL2016_color_horizontal

Classic poets and their poetry shined brightly at the St. Louis Regional Poetry Out Loud competition, facilitated by Springboard and held at its headquarters building on February 1, 2016. Seven St. Louis high school students recited timeless poetry works before a packed house, brimming with students, teachers and guests. 

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation contest open to high school students in all 50 states by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education collaborate to bring this program to Missouri. Poetry Out Loud builds students’ speaking skills, develops appreciation for poetry, increases self-confidence and poise, and provides scholarships. The program also satisfies Missouri Show-me standards and NCTE English Language Arts standards.

For the competition, students memorize and recite three poems chosen from an approved list. After winning competitions at their school, performers move to the regional contest. There, three judges evaluate the performances based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance. An accuracy judge scores each performance, reducing overall scores when inaccuracies occur.

This year’s competitors included last year’s champion plus six new entrants:

  • Amanda Arbuckle, Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience
  • Elliot Auch, St. Louis University High School
  • Kaitlyn Davis, McKinley Classical Leadership Academy
  • Alayzha Jordan, Central Visual and Performing Arts High School
  • Elysse Price, Crossroads Preparatory School
  • Allesha Smith, Cleveland NJROTC High School
  • Toni Thomas, Metro Classical and Academic High School


Guest judges, volunteering their time and expertise, were: Dwight Bitikofer, community newspaper publisher, poet and St. Louis Poetry Center board member; Susan Grigsby, nationally published poet, author and educator; and Justin McCain, award-winning poet, author and Creative Director at M3 Greek. Event emcee and program coordinator was Springboard teaching partner/artist Debora Grandison.

The contestants performed spectacularly and competition was tight. After three rounds of Frost and Browning, “Trees” and “Women”, last year’s champ Kaitlyn Davis emerged victorious, followed closely by Elysse Price and Elliot Auch.  “YES!”, erupted Juanita Jones, Kaitlyn’s instructor and McKinley CLA coordinator, upon the winning announcement. Ms. Davis advances to the state championship in Jefferson City on March 10, then potentially to the national contest in Washington, D.C.

Best wishes to all these brave and talented students and good luck, Kaitlyn – Maya Angelou would be so proud!