2021 Poetry Out Loud™ Wyoming State Champion, Raylene Jones. Photo: Raylene Jones

WYOMING — Raylene Jones, a junior at Natrona County High School, is the 2021 Wyoming Poetry Out Loud state champion, the Wyoming Arts Council has announced.

Jones won the title after competing and winning at the classroom and schoolwide levels. The 16th annual Poetry Out Loud statewide competition was held virtually.

More than 500 students participated in Poetry Out Loud across the state, with 13 high schools registering a team and 11 of those schools advancing a school champion to the state finals. The first runner-up was Jade Hefenieder from Worland High School. Telsie Comer from Sundance Secondary was the third-place winner.

Jones will receive $200, and Natrona County High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. As the first runner-up, Hefenieder will receive $100, with $200 for Worland High School.

Guest judges who presided over the virtual state competition were Chad Hanson, award-winning poet and college educator from Casper; author and University of Wyoming educator Alyson Hagy, Jackson Hole poet Matt Daly and poet Anne Marie Wells from Hoback Junction. Judges viewed student video submissions and evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, accuracy, and evidence of understanding.

Jones will now compete in the Poetry Out Loud national finals, which will be held virtually in May 2021. Students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa will provide video submissions for the semi-finals competition, which will be broadcast on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

The top nine students from the semi-final level will move on to the finals competition, to be broadcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021. The Poetry Out Loud national finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded.

A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C. Since the program began in 2005, more than 3.8 million students and 60,000 teachers from 16,000 schools across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, virtually recognized Jones in a prerecorded announcement. The virtual awards ceremony, which features video clips of Wyoming high school finalists’ recitations can be viewed here.

PHOTO CAPTION: 2021 Poetry Out Loud™ Wyoming State Champion, Raylene Jones.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.