On Saturday, February 10th 2018, Gwen Stevens, a junior at Independence High in Brentwood, took first place in the Contra Costa County “Poetry Out Loud” competition. The event was held in the Campbell Theater in Martinez. The Runner-up position went to junior Emma Lubinger from Pinole Valley High in Pinole, and Third Place to junior Katelyn Downing from College Park High in Pleasant Hill. The three were among thousands of students across the state to participate in the national recitation contest to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance.
Stevens advances to the California state finals in Sacramento on March 18 & 19. This is Contra Costa’s eleventh year of Poetry Out Loud competition, and The Campbell Theater held a standing-room-only audience. Among the many fine recitations, Ms. Stevens’ “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds, Ms. Lubinger’s “The Obligation to Be Happy” by Linda Pastan and Ms. Downing’s “The Gaffe” by C.K. Williams helped secure the final outcome.
The very competitive pool of finalists included students from ten county high schools: Antioch High in Antioch, College Park High in Pleasant Hill, Deer Valley High in Antioch, El Cerrito High in El Cerrito, Independence High in Brentwood, Kennedy High in Richmond, Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, Monte Vista High in Danville, Mt. McKinley High in Martinez, and Pinole Valley High in Pinole. Countywide, over 2000 students memorized a poem for the program this year. Schools hold competitions to determine which ONE student will represent them in the County finals.