On Friday we posted an interview with Olivia Morgan, the founder of the new National Student Poets Program (NSPP). NSPP selects five poets from those who received a National Gold or Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition.
These five serve as ambassadors – each representing a different region of the country – who encourage other young writers at schools with few resources for teaching poetry. During their yearlong tenure, the poets participate in readings across the country and organize a service event in their region. Below are short biographies of the first winners of the NSPP.
The inaugural class of National Student Poets from left to right: Miles Hewitt, age 17, of Vancouver, WA; Lylla Younes, age 17, of Alexandria, LA; Natalie Richardson, age 17, of Oak Park, IL; Claire Lee, age 16, of New York, NY; and Luisa Banchoff, age 17, of Arlington, VA. Each of these poets currently serve as literary ambassadors for the National Student Poet Class of 2012. Courtesy of NSPP Facebook page.
Luisa Banchoff, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Southeast. She is a senior at Washington-Lee School in Arlington, Virginia. Her passion for poetry has already taken her many places. She edits her school’s literary magazine, attended the Kenyon College Young Writers Workshop, and has had the honor of reading at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. In April she was a featured guest at Writers of Social Justice: How One Pen Changes the World, as part of the Red Mountain Writing Project in Birmingham, Alabama.
She has received the 2011 Scholastic Gold Medal in poetry, a 2012 American Voices Medal, and even a Girl Scout Gold Award (she has been a Girl Scout for ten years). Outside of receiving her many awards, Luisa also finds time to give back to her community: she led a poetry workshop at her former elementary school and set up an interactive poetry bulletin at her high school.
Miles Hewitt, 18, is the NSPP poet from the West. He is a senior at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics in Vancouver, Washington. An avid writer from an early age, he began songwriting in eight grade and has self-recorded two albums. Poetry is a new passion, and one that he follows while serving as founder and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and taking a high level Literary Arts class.
In April, Hewitt participated in workshops with middle school students at the Boise State Writing Project and read with three other poets for the Idaho Commission on the Arts “Coasts of Idaho” at the Log Cabin Literature Center. Along with Christopher Luna (the Clark County, Washington, Poet Laureate), Hewitt led a poetry workshop at Washington State University’s At Home At School program.
Claire Lee, 16, is the Northeast NSPP poet. She attends the Chapin School in New York, NY. As a little girl, Lee chose writing stories over playing with dolls. That focus has staying with her into high school. She is the photo editor and a columnist for her school newspaper, Limelight, and is the editor-in-chief of an out-of-school newspaper, NY Girls’ Squash. In 2012, she attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College (Bread Loaf). Her hard work paid off; she won the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Regional Gold and Silver Keys for her photography and second place in the Ayn Rand’s Anthem Essay Contest.
In April, Lee was a featured presenter at the Academy of American Poets 11th Annual Poetry & Creative Mind gala at Lincoln Center. Her service project was working with the East Harlem Tutorial Program on developing a poetry workshop.
National Student Poets Miles Hewitt (far left), Lylla Younes, Claire Lee, Luisa Banchoff and Natalie Richardson (far right) pose with former U.S Poet Laureate, Philip Levine (center).
Natalie Richardson, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Midwest. She attends Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois. Richardson has been active in her school’s Spoken Word Club and Slam Team for two years, and competed in the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival in 2012. Her poetry has been featured on the radio station WBEZ. In addition to writing, Richardson enjoys painting and drawing.
From April 18-20, Richardson participated in 826 Michigan’s Feed Your Soul Poetry Festival in Detroit. The festival engages adults who are new to poetry, and includes schools and independent creative writing program. She is currently working on bringing Louder Than a Bomb to schools lacking a spoken word program.
Lylla Younes, 17, is the NSPP poet from the Southwest. She attends The Louisiana School, a public magnet boarding school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and is from Alexandria, Louisiana. She credits her imagination to her mother’s storytelling when she was a child. Younes finds inspiration in works that span a variety of literary genres, and loves science and philosophy.
On April 24 and 27, Younes took part in a reading and poetry conference with inner-city youth in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On April 23, she participated in poetry readings, performances, and workshops with the Sante Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
For more information on the NSPP, visit its website. For another dose of poetry news, visit the website for the National Endowment of the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud National Competition, which features poets from all fifty state. The competition takes place in Washington, D.C. on April 29th-30th and is free and open to the public.