Ken Huffman, a senior at Elk Grove High School in Sacramento County, is the winner of the California State Capital Finals of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The student took first place in a field of 21 others in order to earn the right to advance to the national championship in Washington, D.C. on May 16, 2006, where $50,000 in scholarships and school prizes will be awarded.
Ken recited O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman, The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, and Detroit, Tomorrow by Philip Levine.
The finals were held on Friday, April 21, in the auditorium of the Secretary of State's Office in downtown Sacramento.
The California Arts Council implemented this pilot initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), partnering with the Sacramento County Office of Education in promoting and supporting the contest in the Sacramento region. The NEA, the Poetry Foundation and the California Arts Council hope to expand Poetry Out Loud throughout California to encourage high school students to learn poetry through performance and competition.
Modeled like the national spelling bee, the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest began in local high school classrooms, with winners advancing to school-wide, then regional competitions. Capital regions countrywide are participating in regional playoff competitions.
Poetry Out Loud is part of an effort to bring literary arts to students — a critical need in our schools, according to a 2004 NEA report, Reading At Risk, that found a dramatic decline in literary reading. Through the rhythm of poetry, students can learn the language arts elements of classic literature and the skills of literary analysis. The program seeks to develop student’s lifelong appreciation for literature and the arts through this process.
More than 250,000 students nationally will take part in Poetry Out Loud this year.