California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

March 25, 2013Mary Beth Barber

Monterey County's Arwa Awan to represent California in Poetry Out Loud nationals

Connor Ricketts from El Dorado County and Shane Anderson from Nevada County were first and second runners-up in the state finals

Sacramento -
Arwa Awan, a senior at Pacific Grove High School in Monterey County, took first place in the 2013 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud and will represent the Golden State in Washington DC at the national finals this spring. Connor Ricketts, a freshman at Charter University Prep in El Dorado County, was the first runner-up and would represent California in the national finals if Awan was unable to attend. Shane Anderson, a sophomore at Bear River High School in Nevada County, was the second runner-up.

"The California Poetry Out Loud state final is an extremely competitive contest, and all the county champions are remarkable young men and women," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "The width and breadth of California's diversity and creativity is well represented in these talented young men and women who participated today, and we are delighted that Arwa will represent California in the national finals."

Fourteen other students made it to the semi-final round, including (in no particular order): Terra Ashbrook (Humboldt County), Abigail Schott-Rosenfield (San Francisco County), Kennedy Peterson (Sonoma County), Teresa Woods (Tuolumne County), Riley Miner (Napa County), Nkem Ehiemere (Riverside County), Ty Bradford (Siskiyou County), Mindy Paul (San Diego County), Allison Corralejo (Ventura County), Joshua Herman (Contra Costa County), Kimberlee King (Solano County), Shayna Maci Warner (Marin County), Antonia Silva (Orange County), and Henry Molina (Sacramento County). A list of all of the county winners, their high schools, and the poems they chose can be found at .

The competition took place on the evening of Sunday, March 24, at the Sacramento Sheraton (Round 1), and the morning of Monday, March 25 (Rounds 2 and 3), on the state Senate floor. Video recordings of both days will be made available soon at

This year marks the eighth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition -- the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in approximately 35 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California state final is the culminating competition in California between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

Awan, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She will go on to compete in Washington, DC, later this spring, and her school will receive $500 for books. Ricketts, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

The state's Poetry Out Loud program is directed by the California Arts Council, and was initiated by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level. The California Arts Council would like to thank Target Corporation for sponsoring the state's program and helping bring California Poetry Out Loud to as many California high school students as possible.

Additional thanks are extended to the California Channel and its staff who allowed Monday's portion of the competition to be broadcast and webcast, and who video recorded Sunday's program for later viewing both on California Channel cable stations as well as webcast at

The California Channel has had a long history with the California Poetry Out Loud program, and the organization won a Telly in 2007 for their program on that year's state finals. Also essential to the success of the program is the multi-media staff from the state Senate who recorded Rounds 2 and 3 from the Senate floor and made the airing and live webcast by the California Channel possible.

Professional photos of Awan and other California Poetry Out Loud competitors are provided by Brian Baer (as slated) or California Arts Council staff (un-attributed). Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program may contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588,

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the Arts and Creativity. Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Wylie Aitken, Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, Michael Alexander, Andrew Green, Charmaine Jefferson, Terry Lenihan, William Turner, and Rosalind Wyman.

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