Eden Getahun of Sacramento County Is the 2020 California Poetry Out Loud State Champion

2020 California Poetry Out Loud champions Eden Getahun of Sacramento County and Malia Cruz of Napa County.
Left to right: 2020 California Poetry Out Loud state champion Eden Getahun of Sacramento County and Poetry Ourselves first-place winner Malia Cruz of Napa County.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Eden Getahun of Sacramento County has been named this year’s California Poetry Out Loud state champion. The 16-year-old junior from C.K. McClatchy High School took first place in the statewide recitation competition on March 15 & 16.

The 2020 State Finals marked the 15th year of the program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. All but five of California’s counties participated in this year’s event, with 53 student champions competing for the title. In response to the state’s current COVID-19 public health emergency, the finals were modified to be a virtual competition. An event program listing all participants and judges can be viewed at this link.

Recitation submissions from Getahun included “The New Colussus” by Emma Lazarus, “Hip-Hop Ghazal” by Patricia Smith, and “It Is Not” by Valerie Martinez. Her teacher is Vincent Masincupp.

Getahun shared her love for poetry as a participant of the Poetry Out Loud program: “Poetry Out Loud is a chance for me to express myself through the words of others, finding ways to empathize with new emotions and embody a different character. I love it!” she said.

Aiyana Sha’neil Da’Briel, a senior at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles County, was runner-up in this year’s competition. Gabrielle Trapse, a junior at Tulare Union High School and Tulare County champion, took third place.  

Additional finalists who scored among the top recitation submissions included students representing another 12 counties from across the state:

  • Arianna Turchetti, Stanislaus County, James C. Enochs
  • Delali Bruce, Santa Clara County, Homeschool (representing Live Oak Academy)
  • Emily Mason, Shasta County, UPREP High School
  • Jasmine Tirrez, San Francisco County, Hilltop High School
  • Karaina Perkins, Riverside County, Shadow Hills High School
  • Kayla Marie Gallardo, San Joaquin County, Bear Creek High School
  • Kayla Salazar, San Benito County, San Benito High School
  • Liam O’Connor, Kern County, Stockdale High School
  • Madeleine Shallan, San Diego County, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
  • Malia Cruz, Napa County, Vintage High School
  • Matthew Mendez, Monterey County, Pacific Grove High School
  • Yoseline Diaz, Santa Cruz County, Aptos High School

This year’s competition was also the second opportunity for California’s county champions to submit original written works at the state level through the Poetry Ourselves creative writing contest. The winning piece, an untitled personal examination of racial injustice, was written by Napa County Poetry Out Loud champion Malia Cruz, a 17-year-old senior at Vintage High School. Sixteen-year-old Cloitzel Mayte Ahumada, a junior at Colusa High School in Colusa County, was runner up for her submission titled “La Batalla.” County champions Eden Getahun of C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento County and Sadie Richert of San Luis Obispo Classical Academy in San Luis Obispo County both received honorable mentions for their original works, “Forget” and “Photographs.” All four contestants’ poems will be featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.

“For 15 years, California Poetry Out Loud has been an opportunity to hear, honor, and celebrate the emerging voices of our state’s young people,” said California Arts Council Executive Director Anne Bown-Crawford. “Despite this year’s necessary format change, we were once again astounded by the presence, passion, and artistry of each of the participants. Poetry as an art form is a powerful entry point for these students to learn both the strength of the words they speak, and the change that creative expression can effect.”

About Poetry Out Loud

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud inspires in high school students the confidence to make themselves heard, using one of the most powerful tools at their disposal—art. Students are given the opportunity to interact with the words of the masters through recitation, building a relationship with the works and creating a sense of shared ownership branded by their own technique of volume, pitch, pace, and personal point of view.

The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to a spelling bee). California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S. and has grown steadily since its inception. The 2020 competition series encompassed 53 counties, 282 schools, and 769 teachers, reaching nearly 56,000 students statewide.

Poetry Ourselves

The California Poetry Out Loud program also incorporates a creative writing component of the competition, Poetry Ourselves, offered for the second year in a row. County champions are invited to submit an original written poem of no more than 50 lines, judged anonymously by a guest poet. The winner receives $100; poems by the first-, second-, and third-place winners will be recognized and featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.

About the 2020 State Finals

As a precautionary measure in response to the ongoing public health crisis surrounding COVID-19, the California Arts Council elected to hold the 15th annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals as a virtual event.  

Three rounds of poem recitation submissions were submitted by students by video to be assessed and scored by the judges. Final score tallies determined the 2020 California Poetry Out Loud State Champion, an honor that includes a $200 cash prize and $500 toward literary materials for the winner’s school.  
In an update from the National Endowment for the Arts on March 14, the National Finals Competition was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. The formal announcement on the national Poetry Out Loud website reads as follows: “Out of care for the health and safety of students, parents, teachers, and everyone involved in Poetry Out Loud, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have decided to cancel the National Finals Competition scheduled for April 27 – 29th in Washington, D.C. We understand that many people have committed long hours preparing for the contest, and we share in your disappointment. Unfortunately, the current environment mandates cancellation. In the weeks to come, we will explore ways to honor the achievements of the 2020 Poetry Out Loud champions.”

For more details about the 2020 California Poetry Out Loud finals, its history, and to view the official event program, please visit the California Poetry Out Loud website at capoetryoutloud.org.

Participating Counties

Finalists from the following counties competed in the 2020 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals: Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.

Event Program

The 2020 California Poetry Out Loud event program, including detailed listings on the student finalists, can be viewed at this link: https://view.publitas.com/ca-arts-council/2020-california-poetry-out-loud-state-finals-program/page/1


Past photos available upon request. Contact Kimberly Brown at kimberly.brown@arts.ca.gov.

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The California Arts Council is a state agency with a mission of strengthening arts, culture, and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. It supports local arts infrastructure and programming statewide through grants, initiatives, and services. The California Arts Council envisions a California where all people flourish with universal access to and participation in the arts.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Jaime Galli, Larry Baza, Lilia Gonzales Chavez, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Stanlee Gatti, Donn K. Harris, Alex Israel, and Jonathan Moscone. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.

The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit http://arts.ca.gov/aboutus/language.php.

Kimberly Brown

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