Liberty Bell High School senior Leki Albright was one of two winners at last week’s Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals in Spokane, and will advance to the state finals in Tacoma next month.
Sydney Frost, from Mt. Spokane High School, was the other top finisher and will also compete in Tacoma. Frost is a repeat winner at the regionals and represented eastern Washington at last year’s state finals.
Also representing the Methow Valley in Spokane last week was Independent Learning Center senior Amelia Evans. She performed well but did not make it to the state finals, according to Kelly Grayum, the Liberty Bell teacher who organizes the local Poetry Out Loud event.
Albright and Evans were the top finishers in the local competition last December. Albright is the first three-time winner of the Methow Valley Poetry Out Loud competition, and also qualified for the state finals as a freshman. That competition was held virtually because of COVID.
This is the ninth time in 12 years of competition that Liberty Bell or the ILC has sent a student to the state finals, Grayum said.
“Leki had the pressure of going first in round one and last in round two,” Grayum reported in an email. “She recited ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ by Robert Haas in round one, and ‘The Greatest Grandeur’ by Pattiann Rogers in round two. Amelia recited ‘Poem for Haruko’ by June Jordan in round one, and ‘Scintilla Star’ by Jameson Fitzpatrick in round two.”
“Leki’s dedication to improvement and hard work paid off. She was our only three-time school champion and competed all four years of her high school career,” Grayum continued. “We are thrilled to see her earn her shot at competing at the state level.”
The state finals will be held on March 9 at the Little Tacoma Theater in Tacoma. One winner from Tacoma will earn an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals. The national winner earns $20,000.
Grayum acknowledged the Public School Funding Alliance and Methow Arts for their support of the program, and the contributions of performance coach Thome George.
Evans finished second for the ILC in 2022 before winning the 2023 competition. Albright was first in the Liberty Bell competition in 2020 as a freshman, finished second in 2021 as a sophomore and won again in 2022 as a junior. The only other previous two-time winner was Cymone Van Marter in 2019 and 2018.
Previous Liberty Bell High School competition winners were Albright (2022), Hazel Culpsmith (2021), Albright (2020), Van Marter (2019 and 2018), Mackenzie Woodworth (2017), Mia Stratman (2016), Lillian Cooley (2015), Claire Waichler (2014), Liam Daily (2013) and the late Tom Zbyszewski (2012). Glacier Gilbert was the 2022 winner for the ILC; Bela Moore won in 2021.
A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and state and jurisdictional arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life, according to the Poetry Out Loud website.