West Orange Student Shreya Anand Wins Poetry Out Loud Competition Second Year in a Row

Cory Wong, 11, Adrienne Saldhana, 10th, Rachel Santos, 11th, Jade Remar, 12th, Amber McCleese, 11th, Zalen King, 11th, Annlynn Fernandes, 10th, Jalisa Delauney, 12th, Shreya Anand, 12th, Divya Anand, 9th, Tynia Thomassie, Faculty Advisor for Escriptus, the National English Honor Society chapter at WOHS. Missing from the photo: Kyla Trinidad, 10th and Christian Onyechi, 9th. Credits: Amy Simon
Winner Shreya Anand. Credits: Amy Simon
Judge's Table: Small learning communities project director Michelle Martino, poet Robert Gibbons, NJ State Champion of POLoud in 2011, Supervisor of Language Arts WOHS Karen Perry, poet Kierra McCall, educator Janet Mandel, poet/educator Frank Niccoletti, WOHS English teacher Molly Wachtel. Credits: Amy Simon

WEST ORANGE, NJ - It was an emotion-packed night at West Orange High School on Wednesday as Shreya Anand won the annual Poetry Out Loud Competition for the second year in a row.

The 12 finalists were:

Ninth-graders Divya Anand and Christian Onyechi; 10th-graders Annlyn Fernandes, Adrienne Saldanha, and Kyla Trinidad; 11th-graders Zalen King, Amber McCleese, Rachel Santos and Cory Wong;12th-graders Shreya Anand, Jalisa Delauney and Jade Remar.

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Tynia Thomassie, long-time WOHS English teacher and head of Escriptus, the West Orange High School chapter of the National English Honor Society hosting the event, said, “Public speaking is one of the 10 fears to face before you die.” This is the fourth year that Thomassie has coordinated the event. Her interest in the program began five years ago when she, "saw the national winner on TV and I was so impressed at the grace and how engaged he was. I realized we did not have this at West Orange High School and that's how it all started." West Orange High School went on to win the state championship in their first year of participation.

Thomassie continued by saying "that she met with with each of this year's contestants at least twice.  "All the kids this year are so talented and the competition is going to be nail-biting and exciting."

Each finalist recited two poems in front of a crowd of their peers and parents. In the original two rounds, there were poems about love, horror, Facebook, and much more. Students were scored by a large table of judges comprised of poets Robert Gibbons, Frank Niccoletti, Kierra McCall, Former WOHS student and New Jersey State Poetry Out Loud Winner Clarissa Lotson, and educator Janet Mandel. The accuracy judge was Language Arts Supervisor at West Orange High School, Karen Perry.

The final five finalists, all girls, consisted of two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore. The two seniors were Shreya Anand and Jade Remar. The juniors were Rachel Santos and Amber McCleese. The lone sophomore was Kyla Trinidad. All had strong dramatic performances in the first two rounds of recitations and had only moments to compose themselves and prepare for their third and final recitation. 

Their final readings were: Kyla Trinidad - "The Coming of the Plague;" Shreya Anand - "Planetarium;" Amber MacCleese - "The Affliction of Richard;" Jade Remar - "Richard Cory;" Rachel Santos - "The Collar."

Anand will next move on to the regionals, which will be held on February 5 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The scoring was “very very close” according to Thomassie. The judges had to recalculate tallies on the internet using a separate scoring evaluation. 

"Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful."  -Rita Dove


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