Las Cruces finalist goes to state poetry championship

New Mexico Arts to host virtual 2021 Poetry Out Loud State Championship on March 14


Join six New Mexico high school students via Zoom as they compete to become New Mexico’s Poetry Out Loud state champion at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 14. Admission to the virtual event is free and open to the public. Please see below for a link to the event.

Now in its 16th year, Poetry Out Loud is an annual poetry recitation competition that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This national program is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies. The New Mexico event is sponsored by New Mexico Arts, a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, with local support from the College of Education and Technology at Eastern New Mexico University. 

New Mexico Arts Executive Director Michelle Laflamme-Childs will host the event, which will include students from New Mexico School for the Arts and New Mexico School for the Deaf performing the National Anthem. State Poet Laureate Levi Romero, University of New Mexico professor Lisa D. Chavez, and Eastern New Mexico University professor Lindsay Tigue will serve as recitation judges, and Santa Fe poet Debbi Brody will serve as accuracy judge. 

Eight schools, 169 students, and 12 teachers participated at the classroom level across New Mexico to select the six finalists who will compete to be state champion. The six finalists are Vanessa Sosa of Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces, Analisa Ibarra of La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, Barbara Akin of Los Lunas High School in Los Lunas, Zoe Sloan Callan of Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, Michelle Montez of Taos High School in Taos, and Jenna Tulonen of Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque. More than 13,000 high school students from across the state have participated in the program since it began 16 years ago.

The state winner will receive $200, plus $500 for their school library for the purchase of poetry books, and the honor or representing New Mexico at the virtual Poetry Out Loud National Finals this spring. Like the state finals, the national semifinals and national finals will be video submission-based. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and stipends will be given, including a $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place.

“Poetry Out Loud not only introduces students to a wide range of poems, but results in poetry becoming a deeply ingrained part of these young people’s lives, helping them understand the true power and weight that words can hold," writes Mary Anne Carter, past chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. "Poetry Out Loud can also help students improve writing and analytical skills, master public speaking, and build self-confidence — all critical skills for young people to develop.” The inspiration for Poetry Out Loud is to promote poetry in both the classroom and the community.  

The illustration for the 2021 official State Final Poster is titled “Dissection of an Unidentified Object” and was drawn by Emily Cai, a student at Centennial High School in Las Cruces. Emily was a New Mexico and National Gold Key awardee in the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  She is also a National American Visions awardee in Drawing & Illustration. Emily’s teachers are Huaqing Cai and Amanda Marcott. 

To access the event via Zoom, visit The passcode is 415464 

For more information, visit You may also contact Phyllis Kennedy at New Mexico Arts at 505-490-3834 or 800-879-4278 (statewide), or email 

For questions about event accessibility or to request an accommodation, please contact the New Mexico Arts Accessibility Coordinator by phone at (505) 551-4737 (voice or text) or (800) 659-8331 (TTY Relay), or by email at Requests should be made at least 10 days prior to the event.