Five High School Students Receive Nation's Top Honor for Youth Poets


The 2014 class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the nation’s highest honor for teen poets presenting original work, began their year of poetry events, workshops and service projects with a reading hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama in the Blue Room of the White House. These five outstanding young poets were appointed by thePresident’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers to showcase the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success.

To learn more about the National Student Poets Program, visit

Mrs. Obama, Honorary Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, congratulated the National Student Poets, noting, “With this award, we celebrate the exceptional creativity, dedication, and promise of the young poets we honor today. Their courage, compassion, and imagination are inspiring others and shaping the world around them. As literary ambassadors to people across the country, these young people have the opportunity to set an example and inspire audiences of all ages with their written work, readings and service projects. Our National Student Poets and all of our young people have unlimited potential, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the years ahead.”

As National Student Poets, Weston Clark, age 16, of Indianapolis, IN; Julia Falkner, age 17, of Louisville, CO; Ashley Gong, age 15, of Sandy Hook, CT; Madeleine LeCesne, age 18, of New Orleans, LA; and Cameron Messinides, age 17, of Greenville, SC will represent five regions of the country to engage audiences everywhere and of all ages in the art of poetry.

As youth ambassadors for poetry and the art of language, the National Student Poets will lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums and schools throughout the country, as well as participate in prestigious events such as readings at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival where they will present on a panel for educators. In addition, the National Student Poets will implement community service projects in their respective regions, which in the past have reached diverse audiences such as military children, patients at a children’s hospital, nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease, and homeless youth, among others. During this year of service, they will also continue to develop their skills through workshops and conversations with the nation’s top writers and thinkers.

Each year, the program’s new class is selected from students in grades 9–11 who receive national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in poetry, the exclusive pathway to becoming a National Student Poet. All student works are then judged based on exceptional creativity, dedication to craft and promise by a jury of literary luminaries and leaders in education and the arts. The 2014 panel of NSPP jurors included Esther Belin (writer and artist), Robert Casper (Head of the Poetry and Literature Center, Library of Congress), Martin Jude Farawell (Director, Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program), Andrea Gibson (poet), Terrance Hayes (poet), Juan Felipe Herrera (writer),Edward Hirsch (President, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation), Alice Quinn (Executive Director, Poetry Society of America), Roger Reeves (poet) and Patricia Smith (poet).

Patricia Smith, 2014 Guggenheim Poetry fellow and four-time National Poetry Slam individual champion, stated, “What struck me the most as I read these students’ works was their ability to vividly draw inspiration from the world around them, from everyday life. The National Student Poets are writers, dreamers and above all, storytellers. The stories and perspectives of today’s youth are legitimate and my hope is that these five teens will inspire their peers to take up the pen and paper and write in as many ways as possible.”

The National Student Poets will each receive an academic award of $5,000 funded by the Bernstein Family Foundation and will serve as resources for the Library of Congress and U.S. Department of Education. Throughout the fall, students in grades 9–11 who are interested in becoming National Student Poets can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens. Deadlines for art and writing submissions vary by region. In the spring of 2015, the National Scholastic Award winners in poetry will then be eligible for the program. More information about how to apply and about the National Student Poets Program can be found at

The National Student Poets Program is a signature initiative which reflects the national imprimatur of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in advancing arts education, links the National Student Poets with audiences and resources in their neighborhoods through the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ community-based network of libraries and museums, and builds upon the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ long-standing work with educators and creative teens through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The program works in coordination with the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education and the academic awards are generously provided by the Bernstein Family Foundation. More information on the Program can be found

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and community revitalization. First Lady Michelle Obama, like other first ladies before her, serves as honorary chairman of the committee.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, identifies teenagers with exceptional creative talent and brings their remarkable work to a national audience through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Founded in 1923, the Awards program is the longest-running, most prestigious initiative of its kind, having fostered the creativity and talent of millions of students through recognition, exhibitions, publications and scholarships. Over the past five years alone, students have submitted more than one million works of art and writing and more than $40 million has been made available in scholarships and awards to top winning

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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