PORTLAND, Oregon - Mitchell Lenneviille, a two-time state finalist from Tualatin who attends Portland Community College through Baker Early College, is the 2016 Oregon Poetry Out Loud state champion. Lenneville, a 19-year-old senior, was one of nine regional finalists who competed in Saturday's state Poetry Out Loud contest at Willamette University. He advances to the national Poetry Out Loud competition, scheduled in early May in Washington, D.C.
In addition to his school studies, Lenneville is the campaign coordinator for Ben West, a candidate for Congressional District 5. He is currently applying to several colleges and plans to study international relations.
"Poetry Out Loud gives thousands and thousands of students exposure to poetry, but it's important to remember that programs like this are being cut from public schools and that arts education is a vital part of developing a well-rounded student," said Lenneville.
Guadalupe "Lupita" Nava-Pena, a senior from Oregon School for the Deaf, was named Oregon's runner up; if for any reason Lenneville is unable to participate in the national competition, Nava-Pena will represent Oregon. The Oregon Arts Commission was the first state to develop a system to allow deaf students to participate in Poetry Out Loud; Guadalupe signs her poems while the words are projected on a screen.
The other seven students who placed in regional competitions and competed at the state contest Saturday are: Brandon Czel, Gresham's Center for Advanced Learning; Sheila Panyam from Lincoln High School in Portland; Elliot Freeman from Springfield's Academy of Arts and Academics; Paul Schroeder from Veritas School in Newberg; Chad Moncus, Logos Public Charter School, Medford; Olivia Frakes, Cascade Christian High School, Medford; and Sadie Swartwout, a two-time school champion making her first trip to state, Crater Renaissance Academy, Central Point. Panyam and Frakes advanced to the final round.
"All nine state contestants gave outstanding performances," says Deb Vaughn, Arts Commission arts education/Poetry Out Loud coordinator. "The scoring was extremely close, but Mitchell and Lupita were clearly the top two finishers. They each demonstrated great poise and confidence." Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest for high school students, organized in Oregon by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Participants memorize and present poems, practicing public speaking skills while exploring the complexity of poetry. In 2015 more than 365,000 students, 2,300 schools and 8,800 teachers participated in Poetry Out Loud nationwide.