Rotary Club of Wolfeboro

Poetry Out Loud Finals

The top three Kingswood finalists in 2017 were Marianna Palladino (second), Cyrus Gauthier (third) and Brooke Seigars (first).
“This changes everything,” student Currie DeBow remarked nine years ago when he learned that his second place finish in Kingswood’s Poetry Out Loud competition earned him a college scholarship.
This Feb. 13, Kingswood hosts its ninth school championship. In the interim, many more lives have been altered by the process.
“Conservatively, I’d say over 1,800 students have been through the program at our school,” said English teacher Gordon Lang. “Each year, we get 9,000 to 11,000 students involved across the state.”  Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The nearly two thousand Kingswood students who have participated in the program have developed public speaking skills, built self-confidence, and analyzed the way words work at their most elemental level.
“You never know who your stars are going to be,” Lang said. “Sometimes it’s your Ag kid from the tech center; one year we had three athletes as our top threewinners.”
Students who may not excel in a traditional English class often find that they have a special aptitude for recitation.
Kingswood involves students from all four grades and all levels of instruction. They also get support from the music, math, culinary arts, and agriculture programs, as well as service organizations like Interact and the National Honor Society.
This becomes a community event, Lang said, bringing in support from local businesses, Wolfeboro Rotary, the SAU, the newspaper, the library, and various community leaders.
“I can’t say enough about how big a role Rotary has played in this,” he said. “They give us $1,000 prize money every year. They reschedule their meetings so they can attend the event. One year I thought we were going to have a fight over who was going to represent Rotary on the judges’ panel.”
The legacy of excellence and broad cultural support is growing year by year. The Poetry Out Loud fan base has spread to the middle school, so students now come into the high school aspiring to be Poetry Out Loud champions.
Last year, for example, the third place finisher, freshman Cyrus Gauthier, had already served as a scoring runner and as a calibrating reciter in past years. His sister Charlotte is stepping up from runner to calibrator this year.
2017 school champion Brooke Seigars has graduated, but Cyrus and second place finisher Marianna Palladino are both returning to the competition this year.
“They’re going to be facing some stiff competition, though,” Lang said. “A lot of students want a piece of that Rotary prize money.”
The competition is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the Kingswood lecture hall on Tuesday, Feb. 13. In the event of a weather cancellation, the competition will be rescheduled for the same time and place on the following night. Admission is free, as are thhe refreshments.