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White House Committee Appoints Teen 'Poetry Ambassadors'

An arts partnership that boasts the blessing of the White House has chosen five talented high school students as its inaugural class of student literary ambassadors.

The new National Student Poets program, announced last November, spotlights promising young poets, harnessing their talent and energy to inspire and encourage their peers.

The first group, announced yesterday as part of the Library of Congress' National Book Festival, represents various regions of the country and varied styles of poetry-writing. They are:

•Luisa Banchoff, 17, of Arlington, Va.
•Miles Hewitt, 17, of Vancouver, Wa.
•Claire Lee, 16, of New York, N.Y.
•Natalie Richardson, 17, of Oak Park, Il.
•Lylla Younes, 17, of Alexandria, La.

The program is a project of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which advises the White House on cultural issues. The five teenagers won the First Lady's praise in a letter congratulating them.

"As a National Student Poet, you now have the unique opportunity to share your accomplishments with the rest of the country," Michelle Obama wrote. "You have the opportunity to lift up and inspire others. I believe that what you learn while reading and writing poetry will stay with you for the rest of your life, and I sincerely hope you continue to use your creativity and imagination throughout your term as literary ambassador and beyond."

The students were chosen by the Committee in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The poets, literary editors and artists who served as judges chose the students from among those in grades 9-11 who won national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for poetry through the Alliance.

During their year of service, the students will support Library of Congress and U.S. Department of Education work related to poetry, and they will undertake a project to encourage the appreciation of poetry and highlight the importance of creative expression and literacy. They will organize and appear at poetry readings and workshops in their regions of the country, hopefully inspiring their peers to find, follow, or build on their literary interests. To nurture their own literary muses, the students will take advantage of mentoring that comes with the award (and $5,000 from the Bernstein Family Foundation).

The National Student Poets Program tries to make strategic connections to advance the appreciation of student poetry. It uses the White House's visibility on arts education as fuel to spread the appeal of poetry to neighborhood audiences and resources through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It reaches educators and students through the Alliance and the 90-year-old Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

High school students (grades 9-11) who are interested in vying for a post as a National Student Poet can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards this fall. The winners of the national awards in poetry, announced next spring, will be eligible for consideration as National Student Poets. More information can be found on a special page of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards website.

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