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Roseville student clenches first place in 'Poetry Out Loud'

Charet Bolton, 15, heads to state finals later this month
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Charet Bolton, a freshman from Roseville High School, took first place in the Placer County “Poetry Out Loud” competition Feb. 5 and will compete in the California state finals later this month.

Charet, 15, was one of thousands of students across the state to participate in the national recitation contest, a program run by the California Arts Council and started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The goal is to engage high school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance.

To clench first place, Charet read “A Song in the Front Yard” by Gwendolyn Brooks and “Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen. For the state competition, she plans to recite “The Paradox” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Poetry Out Loud attempts to bring literary arts to teenagers, which is a critical need in U.S. schools, according to “Reading at Risk,” a 2004 NEA report that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.

The program’s competitions start in the classroom, then progress to the school, regional, state, and national finals — similar to the structure of the national spelling bee. The state finals take place March 20 and 21 in Sacramento. The national championship takes place April 28 and 29 in Washington, DC.

Placer Arts presented the regional finals. PlacerArts is the Arts Council of Placer County, a non-profit agency and the designated state-local partner of the California Arts Council.

About 100 people attended the local event, held at the Arts Building in Auburn, to watch students present two poetry recitations. Chris Olander from California Poets in the Schools also recited a poem. Rick Brown, Laura Seward, Pierre Butler and Maya Tahti served as judges.

Fourteen students from six local high schools participated. Skyler Sousa, 16, a junior at Colfax High School, was named runner-up.

Other participants included Carter McKenzie, Bryce Collins and Avery Carlson of Del Oro High School. Ruhi Radke and Zayna Thomas of Roseville High School participated, along with Shannon Wagner of Granite Bay High School.

Megan Hanna of Colfax High School, Justin Havey and Tyler Donaldson of Victory High School, and Breanna Bachini, David Coon and Paola Vergara, Horizon Charter School also participated.

For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.

~ Sena Christian