5 high school students, including Oak Park senior, named National Student Poets

Each poet receives $5,000 and will serve as “literary ambassadors” who will work in their respective geographic regions on projects, workshops and readings

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NEW YORK — R.C. Davis is a rising high school senior in Oak Park, Illinois, who uses poetry to explore his feelings about gender and family. Kechi Mbah is a rising senior in Houston who first connected to poetry through a competition she watched on YouTube. Sarah Fathima Mohammed, a rising high school junior in San Jose, California, likes to introduce girls to poetry when she visits her native Kumbakonam, India.

They are three of five high school students from around the country who have been named National Student Poets, a one-year position that begins in September. The other students are Aanika Eragam of Milton, Georgia, who edits her high school literary magazine and serves as Atlanta’s Youth Poet Laureate, and Kevin Gu of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, whose poetry often focuses on his Chinese American background.

The honors were announced Wednesday through the National Student Poets Program, established in 2011 and a partnership of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which presents the long-running Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Each poet receives $5,000 and will serve as “literary ambassadors” who will work in their respective geographic regions on projects, workshops and readings. The five winners were selected from a pool of more than 19,000 students who applied for the Scholastic awards. Awards jurors included former U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and such fellow poets as Camille Rankine and Edward Hirsch.

“Five wonderful Poets! Many wonderful poems! Personality and passion!” Crosby Kemper, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said in a statement. “We are delighted to send these young people out into the world as ambassadors for poetry, for humor, pathos, and resilience, in partnership with museums and libraries. America’s communities need them, now more than ever — and here they come!”

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