Arielle Orendain captured first place in the annual “Poetry Out Loud” schoolwide competition at the 2021-2022 program in December. A total of 10 St. Croix Central High School students vied for the titles.
Orendain, a 10th grader, was joined in the winner’s round by 12th grader Daryl Andrada in second place and 9th grader Amaya Hamilton coming in third. The prizes are $100 for the first-place winner with the opportunity to advance to the territorial competition and a chance to win $20,000. Second and third-place winners receive $75 and $50, respectively.
The 2021-2022 competition took place in person, as opposed to the 2020-2021 virtual
event. With respect to the CDC guidelines, only teachers, students and the staff of the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts organization were in attendance.
Poetry Out Loud, the national arts education program, encourages students to study great poetry with its offering of free educational materials to high schools across the nation.
Students learn to master speaking skills and build self-confidence through the program. It also gives them the opportunity to learn about literary history and contemporary life.
Amber Aragi, 10th- and 11th-grade teacher, and 10th-grade teacher Geron Richards coordinated the Poetry Out Loud event. “We worked together for two years, both for the virtual and the in-person competitions. It was great working together with Ms. Aragi. Her experience from previous events was a positive boost. She put a great deal of effort into the program,” Richards said.
Richards created an informative and colorful flyer inviting the students to participate with the suggestion of being honored as a young scholar and of bringing national recognition to their island home. “It was effective,” he said.
“There was a difference between the 2021-2022 event and previous years. There were more contestants than in other years, and the students showed more interest in poetry this time.”
“The program ran more smoothly, students were more enthusiastic, and they were more willing to perform. They exercised a lot more determination in light of the climate of living in a pandemic,” Richards said.
Richards is a poet and an author and has expressed his pleasure in seeing young Virgin Islanders taking up the art of poetic expression. “Although the poems were not culturally relevant, the students were able to adapt to them and express themselves skillfully. They are all winners,” he said.
Aragi and Richards give special thanks to Central High School English Department Chair Lizette Llanos for her assistance in the program’s organization.
The V.I. Council for the Arts supports the Poetry Out Loud competition and makes it possible for students, judges, and coaches to participate when the regional competition is off-island and travel must be considered.
According to the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers in 17,000 schools and organizations in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa since 2005.