Blessed Sheriff (MCPS TV) Student Blessed Sheriff reciting her poem ‘On The Definition of Hope’ (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools)

Blessed Sheriff is a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Richard Montgomery High School in Montgomery County, Md., who wants to be a writer and study psychology. She won second place in the 2013 Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Here’s a poem, titled On the Definition of Hope, that she wrote and performed at Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr’s State of the Schools event held on Monday.

In his speech, Starr said that the district of 151,000 students has scored many successes but still has a chronic achievement gap in test scores that needs to be closed. You can read about his speech here.

Following  is the text of the poem and a video of her moving performance.




One syllable.

Four letters:





NOUN. A feeling of expectation and desire. Derived from Old English hopa or hopian meaning to wish, expect, to look forward to. A word of German origin, connected as well to the Dutch language.


A word with so many sounds, so many souls, it doesn’t get by on just one syllable.

It’s the words of a man, a King, with a dream. It’s attached to the faces of the one’s who are screaming

For freedom.

Four letters? More like six—and it’s spelled like








And do you see now what I mean?

Where there is no vision the people perish—

we are a species defined by our progress—

from the moment we climbed up off our knees and onto our feet…

and we’ve been doing it ever since.

Off our knees and onto our feet.

HOPE. A noun in action,

And whether we are shuffling, mumbling, or running at breakneck speed it makes sure that we are moving.

HOPE. Derived from the one who makes all things new—

a spirit that lives on the inside,

like a wish waiting to come true. It’s true,

we are made of stardust. So the next time you see a shooting star turn around and look inside you:

You’re on fire.

Know that the only things that burn are the things that last forever.

Know that fire ignites, and we’re called to leave this world in ashes more beautiful than the icebergs before.

HOPE. A word which has its origins in the smile of a newborn child, and in the spark of a newborn mind which has the power to change a generation.

And if there’s one thing important enough to remember about what hope is,

It’s that H.O.P.E. stands for one thing W.E.: and that is WE.




And here’s the video of her reciting the poem: