Placer County student Roshawnda Bettencourt of Oakmont High School took first place in California's highly competitive Poetry Out Loud state finals this year. Sacramento County student Daniel Horne of Elk Grove High School took the first runner-up position and Sonoma County student Grace Erny of Sonoma Academy earned the second runner-up spot.
Bettencourt won the chance to compete in the national competition in Washington D.C. on April 27-29, 200. She also earned $200 in prize money, an additional $500 in poetry books for her high school, and a $100 gift certificate and luggage from Target.
Horne, as runner-up, will have the chance to compete in the Washington, D.C., competition and represent Sacramento if Bettencourt isn't able to attend. Horne also received $100 in prize money, $200 in poetry books for his high school, as well as a $75 gift certificate from Target. Third place finisher Erny received a $50 Target gift certificate.
The Poetry Out Loud competition encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of classical poetry. The program was started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, and is fulfilled in the states by the state arts agencies. Local arts agencies and school districts implement the program on the county level. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance.
The California state finals of the national contest are especially competitive because of the large size of the state and the number of students and schools that have made Poetry Out Loud available. With 147 schools statewide partaking in the program, California has the largest number of schools participating in Poetry Out Loud of all the states. California also has the greatest increase in number of schools over a year's time, with 87 new participating schools in 2007–08.