South Dakota Arts Council (Sioux Falls, SD)

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Young African American woman giving a dramatic performance of a poem, arms upreaching

Kayla Jackmon, South Dakota’s champion, performs at the Poetry Out Loud national finals in Washington, DC, in May 2006. Photo by James Kegley

Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to promote the study and appreciation of great poetry, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. In FY 2006, state arts agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia received an $8,000 NEA Poetry Out Loud grant to carry out the program in their state capitals.

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the South Dakota Arts Council chose to broaden their program outside of the state capital by targeting the state’s largest high schools. Ten schools were selected to participate, each receiving standards-based curriculum materials developed by the NEA, including teachers guides, poetry anthologies, and an audio CD featuring writers and actors.

Each high school held their own Poetry Out Loud competition and in total 500 students throughout South Dakota participated in the program. On April 12, 2006, the ten school champions competed in the Senate Chambers at the State Capitol Building in Sioux Falls, each reciting three poems for judges David Allan Evans, South Dakota’s Poet Laureate, and Ray Peterson and Kim Bartling, theatre artists at the South Dakota State University and the University of Sioux Falls, respectively. Kayla Jackmon, a senior at Sioux Falls’s Washington High School became South Dakota’s first state champion, receiving a $200 prize, $500 for her school to purchase poetry books, and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC. The runner-up received $100 and $200 for her school’s library.

On May 16 at Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC, Kayla Jackmon recited Yone Noguchi’s “The Poet” and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”, and out of the 51 participants was selected as one of 12 to advance to the final round of competition. As a finalist, she received a $1,000 college scholarship prize and her school received $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

(From the NEA 2006 Annual Report)