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White House Honors Student Poets

michelle.jpgThe President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities last week honored five high school students as the 2015 class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), which is designed to recognize talented young writers and give them channels to inspire other students to engage in creative expression. 

The NSPP recognized these five high schoolers:

  • Chastity Hale, age 15, from High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J.
  • De'John Hardges, age 16, from Cleveland School of the Arts in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • David Xiang, age 17, from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.
  • Eileen Hang, age 15, from High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J.
  • Anna Lance, age 17, from West High School in Anchorage, Alaska.

Each year, five National Student Poets, from grades 10-11, are selected from a pool of Gold and Silver National Medalists in the poetry category of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. These students are selected for their exceptional creativity and promising qualities of leadership within their communities.

On October 8, 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama held a poetry reading in the White House to congratulate this year's winners. The youth poets had the opportunity to recite and share their original pieces. (The program for the event includes samples of their work.)

Each selected poet will assume the role of a literary ambassador within his or her geographic region, with the mission of engaging students of all ages in the art of poetry. The year-long ambassadorship includes leading and executing various community service projects. Past ambassadors have lead writing workshops for military children at the U.S. Army War College, patients at children's hospitals, displaced persons, and LGBT youth.

The student-writers will also have the opportunity to present their own poetry during their appearances at national poetry conferences, galas, and poetry festivals around the nation. Past events include the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, N.J. and readings at Carnegie Hall.

"Most bright ideas, innovation and new ways of thinking—being, moving, speaking and hearing come from the young. We need poetry and poets in the world, and it starts locally, right in the community to encourage our young people to explore the art form," said Alfre Woodard, a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and one of the National Student Poets Program jurors. 

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2015 National Student Poets (from left: Anna Lance, David Xiang, De'John Hardges, Chasity Hale, and Eileen Huang) in the Blue Room of the White House, October 8, 2015.—Patrick G. Ryan for the National Student Poets Program.

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