Poetry is the focus for several Tallahassee Collegiate Academy students

photo mural of three young women.
The top three students in TCA's 2024 Poetry Out Loud Competition

This Spring, students at Tallahassee Collegiate Academy, a charter STEM high school on the Tallahassee Community College campus, participated in the first and second rounds of a national contest called Poetry Out Loud.

The Poetry Out Loud Program

A group of people posing for a photo on a stage
Tallahassee Collegiate Academy participants in the 2024 Poetry Out Loud Competition on January 23, 2024. Back row: (left to right): Sarah Methellus, Carmen Diaz, Lian Rodgers, Samantha Aguazul-Gonzalez, Shiloh Pipkin; Front row: (left to right) : Kage Groundwater, Malik Rollins, Melody King, Emory Buning, Esinam Agama, Daily Forsman (Photo by Jessica Chapman, Principal at TCA)

Poetry Out Loud, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, works with schools across the country to “encourage the study of great poetry.” Their website says the program not only provides free educational materials to schools but also works to help students master public speaking skills. In the competition, students recite poems with dramatic interpretation. After the local level competitions, students head to the state and then the national competition. There are cash prizes starting at the state level and the national winner receives a $20,000 prize. Since its beginning in 2005, the program says it has reached 4.2 million students, 72,000 teachers, and worked with 18,000 schools in every state plus the U.S. Territories.

A couple of people posing for the camera
Winners of the TCA Poetry Out Loud Competition; (Left to Right) Melody King, Sarah Methellus, and Esinam Agama.(Photo by Jessica Chapman, Principal at TCA)

Local TCA students shine

The first round at Tallahassee Collegiate Academy on January 23, 2024, brought together eleven students to compete at the TCC Fine and Performing Arts Center. Sarah Methellus won first place for a poem by FSU Professor David Kirby called “Broken Promises.” Melody King came in second with her recitation of a poem called “What Women are Made of” by Bianca Lynne Spriggs. In third place was Esinam Agama who recited “After the Winter” by Claude McKay.

The top three students took an afternoon at WFSU Public Media to repeat their performances in front of our studio cameras. Watch their recitations below.

Sarah Methellus recites David Kirby’s poem “Broken Promises.”

David Kirby, “Broken Promises” from Big-Leg Music. Washington, DC: Orchises Press, 1995. Copyright © by David Kirby. Used by permission of the author.

Melody King recites “What Women are Made of” by Bianca Lynne Spriggs.

Spriggs, Bianca Lynne. “What Women Are Made Of.” In Call Her by Her Name: Poems. Evanston: TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2023. p.81-2. Copyright © 2016 by Bianca Lynne Spriggs. Published 2016 by TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Esinam Agama recites “After the Winter” by Claude McKay.

Claude McKay, “After the Winter.” Public Domain, Originally from Harlem Shadows (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922)

The State and National Poetry Out Loud Competition

A woman dressed in brown shirt holding award in front of  Poetry Out loud sign.
Niveah Glover of Jacksonville holding the 2024 National championship award for Poetry Out Loud (Photo by James Kegley)

On March 2, 2024, TCA first-place winner Sarah Methellus headed to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg for the state competition. At this level, Methellus was up against the winners of up to 59 other participating high schools in Florida. The state winner was not Methellus. Instead, Niveah Glover took home the top spot in the Florida contest. Glover attends Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida. She headed to Washington, D.C. for the National competition in early May and won the entire thing with her recitation of ‘Self Portrait as Kendrick Lamar Laughing to the Bank’ by Ashanti Anderson. See her performance below.

A high school student from Smyrna, Georgia, Tiana Renee Jones, came in runner up at the national competition with her performance of  “Mezzo Cammin” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Jacksonville, Florida’s Niveah Glover’s performance of “Self Portrait as Kendrick Lamar Laughing to the Bank” which won the 2024 National Poetry Competition (Originally posted on National Endowment of the Arts YouTube page):

Want to learn more about how you or your school can participate in next year’s competition? Go to this link at the Poetry Foundation website for details.

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Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.

Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.