Key West High School (KWHS) is proud of the students who participated in the first Poetry Out Loud competition on January 31st. Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry competition for high school students that provides an opportunity to read and recite poems while enhancing public speaking and presentation skills. Several English and History Classes partook in memorizing poems in class and 23 students were chosen to read their poem on stage. A number of students and teachers came to support their peers as they gave inspiring performances. At the end, senior, Dana Dauletgalikyzy was announced as the runner-up and freshman, Gabrielle Pariag was announced as the winner who would advance to the state competition at the University of South Florida (USF), St. Petersburg.
Pariag first took interest in poetry in the sixth grade where she participated in the Robert Frost Poetry Contest and won first place.
“That’s when I first started wondering, ‘Am I good at this? Maybe I am.’” said Pariag. She went on to participate in other poetry recitation contests in the seventh and eighth grade and was met with success again. Pariag had to recite three different poems at the state competition at USF. The first was one she had become familiar with in the eighth grade, entitled “Bent to the Earth” by Blas Manuel.
“This first one was inspiring because it was about immigration which is something I’m very opinionated about. I knew I wanted to do something political or social, so I went this route.” explained Pariag. She found the other two poems on the Poetry Foundation site after looking up topics like “political” or “social justice”. This is how she discovered “I sit and Sew” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, which is about female empowerment and “The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allen Poe, which strayed from the political theme and added more drama to Pariag’s performance.
In St. Petersburg, Pariag competed against 41 other students in front of a panel of five judges. The competition was divided between three separate rounds, with the number of competitors shrinking with each round. Pariag prepared for the competition by repeatedly reciting each poem, watching other videos and miraculously memorizing her final poem the night before the competition. She admitted to being nervous, especially at the prospect of being one of the only freshman to compete.
The nerves were worth it as Pariag finished in fourth place, just three points shy of third. She was the only freshman to make it to the top 10, an amazing feat, as it was her first time attending the competition. KWHS staff and peers couldn’t be more proud and look forward to expanding the school contest next year, so that more students can continue to read and share great poems.