Five teenagers have been selected National Student Poets, the highest U.S. honor for young people who write their own poetry. The program that will have them serve as ambassadors at everything from literary readings to community service.
The poets include Alexandra Contreras-Montesano from Burlington, Vermont, and Heather Laurel Jensen of Mesa, Arizona. National Student Poets, founded in 2011, is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Each poet will receive a $5,000 award.
Other students honored Wednesday were Darius Atefat-Peckham of Interlochen, Michigan; Ariana Smith of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Daniel Blokh of Birmingham, Alabama. Applicants were 10th- and 11th-graders who had received top honors in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
“Throughout the year, the poets will serve as literary ambassadors and will share their passion for poetry and the literary arts with their communities and at libraries and museums throughout their regions,” the program’s coordinators said Wednesday. “This will be done through service projects, workshops, and public readings.”
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will help preside over an August 30 ceremony with the poets at the Library of Congress. The students, chosen from thousands of applicants, also will meet privately with Tracy K. Smith, the U.S. poet laureate.
“The National Student Poets are representatives of language at its best: seeking discovery, forging new modes of meaning, singing the particular music of this very moment,” Smith said in a statement. “They remind us how much poetry continues to matter, and how much we need what poetry fosters, which is care, belief, courage and empathy.”