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Ridgefield High School students shine in Poetry Out Loud contest

Grace Melbuer finished first in the school’s competition

RIDGEFIELD — Over two dozen Ridgefield High School students recently braved the pouring rain to take center stage at The Old Liberty Theater to recite the works of both famous and lesser-known poets in the school-level round of the national Poetry Out Loud competition.

Grace Melbuer, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, placed first in the school's Poetry Out Loud competition. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
Grace Melbuer, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, placed first in the school’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

Grace Melbuer, a sophomore, earned first place, with a recitation of Rita Mae Reese’s poem, “Dear Reader.” Natalie Dean, a senior, finished second. Davin Tjia, a sophomore, and Kendall Davis, a freshman, tied for third-place honors.

“Poetry is a unique art form that allows for the expression of ideas and opinions,” said Melbuer. “I appreciate Poetry Out Loud at Ridgefield High because it gives students the opportunity to expose themselves to the wonderful art while practicing their memorization and public speaking skills.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The program, which debuted in the 2004-2005 school year, has exploded in popularity, with more than 3 million students representing 10,000 schools participating over that time.

This is the fifth year that Ridgefield High School has competed in the Poetry Out Loud contest, and members of the English Department continue to be impressed each year with the quality of the presentations given by their students.

To prepare for the competition, all RHS English students selected and memorized a poem chosen from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. English classes held competitions where students recited their poems in class. Students were evaluated on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and ability to convey the poem’s meaning to audience members. Classroom winners and a wild-card advanced to the school finals.

This year, students benefitted once again from the professional guidance of Katherine Murphy Lewis, co-founder of the non-profit arts group, From the Ground Up. Murphy Lewis worked with groups of RHS students, presenting workshops and tutoring small groups in individual classes to prepare for the contest. The English department was able to bring Murphy Lewis in through a grant from the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation and a generous donation of her time.

The staff at The Old Liberty Theater hosted the competition.

Information provided by Ridgefield School District.

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