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XHS senior finishes first place in poetry finals


XENIA — A Xenia High School student has done it again and it’s all good.

Senior Hiba Loukssi finished in first place in the West Central Ohio Regional Finals for Poetry Out Loud at the competition at Edison State Community College on Feb. 9. She will now advance to the state finals to be held in Columbus on March 10.

The annual competition encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation with the goal of improving public speaking skills, building self-confidence, and learning about literary heritage and contemporary life said school officials.

“This is the third year that XHS has participated in Poetry Out Loud. The local contest is held annually in January and open to any Xenia High School student. Hiba has been the school champion for the last three years and Erin Kelly was the runner-up in this year’s contest,” said Coordinator of Communications Kristy Creel.

During her winning performance at the regional competition, Loukssi recited “Author’s Prayer” by IIya Kaminsky and “There are Birds Here” by Jamaal May. For the state contest, Loukssi must recite a third poem in addition to these two. According to her teachers, she stayed after school for multiple days to practice reciting her poems and work on her interpretation.

“Even up to the week before the regional contest, Hiba was still discovering new meaning and connections to her poems,” said Jennifer Burgess, an English teacher at XHS. “The end result was that Hiba’s performance was absolutely captivating seems to connect with everyone in the audience at regionals. Once she made a personal connection with the poems, everything clicked and the transformation was magical.”

According to its website, during the process of analyzing, memorizing, and interpreting poetry, students build skills such as improved writing and analytical ability that benefit them in courses ranging from English language arts to history and science. Poetry Out Loud aligns with Common Core and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) standards, and all materials are provided for free through the Ohio Arts Council.

“I am so proud of her efforts and growth as a speaker over the past several years,” said Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton. “I heard Hiba speak during last year’s speech contest and I know that everyone in the room was pulled into her presentation even as a junior. Hiba continues to improve and I hope her performances inspire other students to participate in future contests.”

At the state competition in March, top-scoring participants receive cash prizes and money for their school library, and the first-place winner moves on to the national championship in Washington, D.C. in May. The national first place cash prize is $20,000.