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BC senior earns spot in NYS Poetry Out Loud contest

Filed in District, District News, Student Spotlight by on February 19, 2021

student holding award and smilingAsk most people and they might say poetry is having a moment. The inspirational poems written and recited by Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the presidential inauguration in January and at this month’s Super Bowl have garnered well-deserved attention and new fans of what feels like a fresh take on an old literary genre.

But if you were to ask Nya Santeliz, a Bethlehem senior who has just earned a place at this year’s New York State Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest, she might say that everyone else is just late to the party.

That’s because Nya caught the poetry bug early. 

“When I was younger I used to read Shel Silverstein all the time,” said Santeliz. “When I was in sixth grade, my English teacher, Mr. Helm, had us recite poems in front of the class. From there, my love for poetry deepened after reading old poetry books I had around my house and I started reading a lot of classic poetry.”

When she got to high school, Santeliz says, she was introduced to Poetry Out Loud by English teacher Alicia Sharp. She participated that year and every year since.

On March 13, she will take her skills to the statewide competition after being named first runner-up at the Capital District Poetry Out Loud contest held last weekend.

Poetry Out Loud encourages students to develop an appreciation of poetry and learn more about poets and their works through memorization and recitation. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

Santeliz is preparing three poems for the New York State Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest: “A Poison Tree” by William Blake, “kitchenette building” by Gwendolyn Brooks, and “Who Said It Was Simple” by Audre Lorde.

The New York State Poetry Out Loud competition will be streamed online on March 13. Information about Poetry Out Loud and where to watch the statewide contest will be posted here. Winners of each state will move on to the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest to compete for $50,000 in prizes.

“This will be Nya’s second trip to the New York State round of the competition and we couldn’t be more proud,” said teacher and BC’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator Andrew Rickert, who brought Poetry Out Loud to the high school in 2018. “Both of our students who represented Bethlehem at regionals — Nya and sophomore Pamela White — performed very well.”

Rickert said that similar to the National Spelling Bee, the Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest begins at the classroom level and moves to a school level, before students can advance to regional competition with the goal of making it to the state or national level.

“We wish Nya the very best as she moves forward in the competition,” said Mr. Rickert.

You can hear Nya’s poetry recitation skills here, as she helped the high school kick-off Black History Month on Feb. 1: