Orange County’s Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia Named 2018 California Poetry Out Loud Champion

Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia on Monday, March 19, at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals. Photo by Tia Gemmell, courtesy of the California Arts Council.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia of Mater Dei High School in Orange County is California’s 2018 Poetry Out Loud state champion. The high-school senior took first place in the state finals competition on March 19, and will go on to represent the state of California at the national finals in April in Washington, D.C.

Rangell-Onwuegbuzia recited “If They Should Come for Us” by Fatimah Asghar, “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville and “The Mortician in San Francisco” by Randall Mann. Her teacher is Melissa Jacobson.

Rangell-Onwuegbuzia explained her relationship with poetry as a tool to promote social change on a civic level and within the world of art itself. “The arts give me the courage to express my values with an activist’s voice in the midst of the fear and ignorance residing on both sides of the ‘fourth wall,'” she said.

Sage Innerarity, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School in Sacramento County, was runner-up and will represent California in the national finals in the event Alexis is unable to attend. Nicholas Panyanouvong, a sophomore at James C. Enochs High School in Stanislaus County took third place for the second time, having received the same honor in the prior year as a freshman.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, administered statewide by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S., and has grown steadily since its inception in 2006. This year’s competition series encompasses 46 counties, 261 schools, and 783 teachers, reaching nearly 73,000 students statewide.

“I am so inspired by listening to young people who have read literature and committed it to memory, and were so committed to that challenge that you would come and stand in front of a group of people and read and perform it. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate all of you for your amazing work,” said California Art Council Chair Nashormeh Lindo, addressing the students at the event.

A list of all of the state finalists, their schools, counties, and chosen poems can be found in the official event program.

About Poetry Out Loud
The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals took place Sunday, March 18, with Round One at the Crest Theatre and Monday, March 19, with Rounds Two and Three in the Assembly Chambers at the state Capitol.

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 the spelling bee).

As the California Poetry Out Loud champion, Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia will receive $200 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud finals, paid for by the National Endowment from the Arts. Her school will also receive $500 for library materials. Competing at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals presents the opportunity for approximately $50,000 in scholarship funds and related winnings. Runner-up Sage Innerarity will also receive a $100 prize, with $200 awarded to her school to purchase literature.

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at

Kimberly Brown

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