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CONTACT: Rebecca Cruse, Deputy Director






PIERRE, S.D. – Rahele Megosha, a senior at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, earned the title of Poetry Out Loud National Champion during the National Finals event webcast Thursday evening. Megosha will receive a prize of $20,000, and her school will receive $500 to purchase poetry education materials.


She will also be invited to make appearances and represent the Poetry Out Loud program at special events throughout the next year as the National Champion.


“Being able to get to know these different poets and their different poems, it really helps me understand the multitude of perspectives that exist in this world and I think that’s a really beautiful thing,” Megosha said in a short video about the impact of Poetry Out Loud.


Poetry Out Loud is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program is administered by the South Dakota Arts Council (SDAC) at the state level. Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self‐confidence and learn about their literary heritage.


“We’re absolutely thrilled for Rahele, and so proud to have her represent our state in this national forum. We’ve seen incredible talent throughout the history of the Poetry Out Loud program, and many of our students have won prizes and placed among the top 12 at the National Finals, but Rahele is the first POL National Champion from South Dakota, so she brings honor not only to herself and her school but the entire state,” said Patrick Baker, SDAC executive director. “Watching her win the competition was such a joyful occasion. Congratulations to Rahele and also to her coach at Washington High School, Michelle McIntyre.”


Megosha has been active in her school and community and will attend Columbia University in New York City this fall on a full-ride scholarship. She plans to major in biochemistry with a concentration in African-American and African diaspora studies or human rights.


Thursday night’s national finals were the culmination of the 2020-2021 Poetry Out Loud program, with thousands of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa participating during this school year. Both the national semifinals and finals took place virtually in 2021, with state and jurisdictional champions submitting pre-recorded videos that were reviewed and scored by judges based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy.


An office of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, the South Dakota Arts Council’s mission is to provide grants and services to artists, arts organizations and schools across the state, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the state of South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Tourism is comprised of Tourism, the South Dakota Arts Council, and the South Dakota State Historical Society. The Department is led by Secretary James D. Hagen.



Photo: Screenshot by James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud National Finals video submissions.