Class of 2014 National Student Poets Appointed Class of 2014 National Student Poets Appointed

Class of 2014 National Student Poets Appointed First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a poetry reading in honor of the 2014 National Student Poets from left: Cameron Messinides, Madeleine LeCesne, Ashley Gong, Julia Falkner and Weston Clark in the Blue Room of the White House, Sept. 18, 2014. Photo by Paul Morse
In a private ceremony at the White House, the President’s Committee Honorary Chair Michelle Obama presented the third class of National Student Poets with their pins, signifying their role as poetry ambassadors for the coming year and identifying them as recipients of the nation’s highest honor for high school poets  creating original work.

“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,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “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.”

At a second ceremony at the Library of Congress, 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 were publically recognized as National Student Poets with an inaugural reading. For the next year, they will share their work and engage audiences of all ages in the art of poetry through readings, workshops and other events at museums, libraries, festivals and other venues. All these activities will focus on the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success, as well as celebrating teens as makers and doers.  The Class of 2014’s service projects and events will be held in communities in the five regions of the country represented by each of the student poets. The last class of poets lead poetry workshops with incarcerated women, middle-school students and other audiences, as well as created service projects that used poetry to reach Alzheimer’s patients and another series of workshops for English as a second language students to explore their native languages and cultures through poetry as a path to mastering English.

All of these activities are supported through a collaboration between the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The National Student Poets are selected every year from students in grades 9–11, who received national medals from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition initiative for creative teens. A group of 35 semifinalists are then selected and sent to a jury of literary luminaries and leaders in education and the arts for final adjudication based on exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. This year’s distinguished 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).

Each National Student Poet will receive an academic award of $5,000, funded by the Bernstein Family Foundation, and serve as a resource for the U.S. Department of Education and the Library of Congress. Students in grades 9–11 who are interested in becoming National Student Poets can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards throughout the fall. In the spring of 2015, the National Award winners in Poetry will then be eligible for the program. More information on the National Student Poets Program can be found at www.artandwriting.org/NSPP.