California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

March 21, 2011Mary Beth Barber

Monterey County's Robert Marchand to represent California in Poetry Out Loud nationals

Mark Reifenheiser from Contra Costa County took second, and Phebe Hong from Sonoma County was third in an extremely close competition

Sacramento -

Robert Marchand from Monterey County (a senior at Pacific Grove High School -- age 18) took first place and will represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. in April. Taking second was Mark Reifenheiser from Contra Costa County (a senior at Mt. Diablo High School, age 18), and Phebe Hong from Sonoma County (a junior at Santa Rosa High School, age 16) placed third.

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Chair of the California Arts Council, found this year's competition extremely hard to judge because of the overwhelming amount of talent. "I gave out so many perfect scores this year I'm surprised we could even find a winner," said Feruzzi Shriver. "Any of these county champions could have represented California in Washington. We look forward to having Robert Marchand represent our great state in April."

Al Young, former California Poet Laureate and also a judge in this year's competition, was impressed with the 2011 California county champions -- not only in the recitations, but also with their backgrounds and beliefs explained during the biographies portion of the event dinner on Sunday, March 20, 2011. "Given the energy, passion and intelligence of this year's Poetry Out Loud performers, I have total faith that our future is in good hands," said Young. "The shortsightedness of the world today may be overcome by young people like these."

Being a judge in this year's event cemented Young's opinion that the arts are essential in the educational process. "If arts education and access to the arts were made available to children at younger grades, there would be fewer prisoners, fewer gangs and less anxiety and depression in our youth. The arts allow children and youth to express themselves, their lives, and their creativity -- outlets that not only increase self confidence and societal interaction, but improve interest in learning and help form the productive and intelligent adults of tomorrow."

Feruzzi Shriver noted the impact that Poetry Out Loud can have on students. "Programs like this can have a lasting impact on a young person," said Feruzzi Shriver. "We have participants who come from group homes, from at-risk youth programs, or who hadn't found a place until they found this program. I saw such pride in the parents and teachers. I'm very proud that the California Arts Council works so hard to make this program work for thousands of high school students."

"I would gladly write poems all year long for this year's crop of participants to memorize and perform," said Young. "They would be delivered with elegant accuracy by every single one."

This year marks the sixth 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 34 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California state finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee). 

Marchand, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He will go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, and his school will receive $500 for books. Reifenheiser, 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 the Target Corporation for sponsoring the state's program and helping bring California Poetry Out Loud to as many California high school students as possible.

The agency is also indebted to the hardworking staff at the California Channel who allow the program to be broadcast and webcast, and to the California Department of Education and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson for their sponsorship of the event space on March 21, 2011, at the East End Complex Auditorium. 

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program may contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, More general information, including a list of poems the students chose to recite, can be found on the California Arts Council website ( under the Home/What's New tab.  A list of all the county winners follows this release.

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California Poetry Out Loud 2011
County Champions (in alphabetical order by County)

Alameda County
Sam Warrick, The College Preparatory School

Contra Costa County
Mark Reifenheiser, Mt. Diablo High School (SECOND PLACE)

El Dorado County
Rebecca Shields, Oak Ridge High School

Fresno County
Chukwunonso Nonny Okwelogu, Clovis West

Humboldt County
Terra Ashbrook, North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy

Inyo County
Tyler Holt, Big Pine High School

King County
Cabrilla McGinn, Hanford West High School

Lake County
Rebecca Sires, Lower Lake High School

Los Angeles County
Sophia Breanna Brady, Herbert Hoover High School

Madera County
Erica Grant, Yosemite High School

Marin County
Douglas Pardella, Redwood High

Mendocino County
Camila Biaggi, Pacific Community Charter School

Modoc County
Jennifer Mueller, Surprise Valley High School

Mono County
Erica Robinson, Mammoth High School, Lakes

Monterey County
Robert Marchand, Pacific Grove High School (FIRST PLACE)

Napa County
Stella Palado, American Canyon High School

Nevada County
Nicole Bush, Nevada Union High School

Orange County
Feby Boediarto, Oxford Academy

Placer County
Charet Bolton, Roseville High School

Riverside County
Nkem Ehiemere, Nuview Bridge Early College High School

Sacramento County
Brittany Wiltz, Natomas Charter School

San Bernardino County
James Smith, Yucaipa High School

San Diego County
Lauren Owensby, Valley Center High School

San Francisco County
Abigail Schott-Rosenfield, Ruth Asawa School of the Arts

San Luis Obispo County
Kaden Howard, Lopez Continuation High School

Santa Barbara County
Courtney Cambron, Dos Pueblos High School

Siskiyou County
Keven Cassells, Mount Shasta High School

Solano County
Lindsay Blackie, Benicia High School

Sonoma County
Phebe Hong, Santa Rosa High School (THIRD PLACE)

Stanislaus County
Rebecca Kim Mears, Modesto High School

Sutter County
Molly Grover, CORE Camptonville

Tuolumne County
Jonathon Bermea, Sonora Union High School

Ventura County
Frank de la Torre, Providence High School

Yuba County
Ocil Herrejon, Lindhurst High School

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 Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice Chair William Turner, Wylie Aitken, Michael Alexander, Andrew Green, Adam Hubbard, Charmaine Jefferson, Terry Lenihan, and Susan Steinhauser.

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