Colorado Teen Hana Kebede Wins State Poetry Out Loud Competition

Headed to National Competition in Washington DC in May

The Colorado Creative Industries division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) and Lighthouse Writers Workshop are pleased to announce that Hana Kebede of Overland High School has been named the 2023 Colorado Poetry Out Loud State Champion. Kebede will advance to the national competition in May.

"We are so proud of Colorado’s rich arts and culture scene, and the Poetry Out Loud competition showcased the many talented young poets across our state. Congratulations to Hana on this exciting win and for moving on to the national stage, showing the rest of the country the rich talent thriving in Colorado,” said Gov. Polis.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages high school students to learn about classic and contemporary poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Since the program began in 2005, more than four million students across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

“Poetry and creative writing have the power to inspire and move us, and we are proud to congratulate Hana for winning the Poetry Out Loud competition and moving on to the national competition in May,” said First Gentleman Marlon Reis. “Winning this competition takes a lot of literary creativity, passion, and dedication, and is something our community celebrates. Colorado is proud of you, and we will be cheering you on at nationals.”

On March 1, 2023, 13 students from 12 Colorado schools and organizations competed at the annual state finals at the Lakewood Cultural Center. This year’s event was kicked off by Governor Polis, emceed by Pikes Peak Poet Laureate Ashley Cornelius, and judged by some of Colorado’s finest poets and performers. 

Kebede, from Overland High School, had the highest scores for her performances of “What the Oracle Said,” by Shara McCallum, “On an Unsociable Family,” by Elizabeth Hands, and “Truth Serum,” by Naomi Shihab Nye. As State Champion, Kebede will receive $200 and a trip to Washington D.C., with an adult chaperone, for the Poetry Out Loud national competition. Overland High School will also receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials.

When asked her thoughts after her win, Kebede said, "Always expect the unexpected. Especially within yourself."

Joséphine Briggs, from Niwot High School, was first runner-up, receiving $100 along with $200 for the school. Kaitlynn Clint, from Valor Christian High School, was the second runner-up. PBS12 will broadcast the performances, with interviews from the competitors, in late April 2023.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, held from May 8-10, 2023, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th–9th places. 

Aidyn Reid of Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs was named the Colorado Poetry Out Loud State Champion in both 2021 and 2022. Last year, she placed second overall at the National Competition.

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