Five high school students from across the country have been chosen from among thousands of award-winning poets to serve for a year as National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.
The National Student Poets Program (NSPP) is a partnership of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious scholarship and recognition program for the country’s young artists and writers.
Representing five geographical regions of the nation, the 2020 National Student Poets are:
Isabella Ramirez (Southeast), a junior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in Lake Worth, FL
Ethan Wang (Southwest), a junior at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, TX
Manasi Garg (West), a junior at Saratoga High School in Saratoga, CA
Madelyn Dietz (Midwest), a homeschooled junior from St. Paul, MN
Anthony Wiles (Northeast), a junior at Sewickley Academy in Ross, PA
The National Student Poets were selected from students in grades 10-11 who submitted more than 20,000 works in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and received top honors in poetry. From this pool of National Medal recipients, 35 semi-finalists were identified as the most gifted young poets in their regions, based on their originality, technical skills, and personal voice, and were invited to submit additional poetry and performance videos to distinguished jurors for the final selection of the five National Student Poets.
WATCH THE CLASS OF 2020 APPOINTMENT CEREMONY ON SEPTEMBER 10 AT 7PM EST.
The 2020 Student Poets will be appointed by the Director of IMLS, Crosby Kemper, on September 10 at 7pm EST in a virtual ceremony. The ceremony will feature remarks by critically-acclaimed author and Brooklyn Poet Laureate, Tina Chang, special messages from the Class of 2019 alumni, commentary about the program’s community service successes, and individual readings by each incoming 2020 Student Poet.
Crosby Kemper said, “IMLS is honored, and I am personally thrilled, to present our congratulations to these five very talented students who will be creative ambassadors to the worlds of arts and humanities. Their engagement with libraries, museums, and communities across the country will be a highlight of our year.”
Throughout the year, the Poets will serve as literary ambassadors and will share their passion for poetry, literacy, and the literary arts with their communities and throughout their regions. This will be done through activities that include service projects, workshops, and public readings. In addition, each Poet will receive a $5,000 academic award.
All student submissions in consideration for the National Student Poets Program are judged by literary luminaries and leaders in education and the arts based on exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. This year’s panel of jurors were:
Class of 2020 Jurors
Jennifer Benka, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets
Tina Chang, Brooklyn Poet Laureate
Juan Felipe Herrera, 21st U.S. Poet Laureate
Edward Hirsch, poet and President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
Cyndee Landrum, Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Deputy Director, Office of Library Services
Shane McCrae, award-winning poet
Danez Smith, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry
Arthur Sze, former Guggenheim Fellow and two-time National Endowment for the Arts Fellow
Crystal Valentine, former New York City Youth Poet Laureate
Javier Zamora, award-winning poet and activist
Regarding the Class of 2020, Christopher Wisniewski, Executive Director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers commented, “Everyone at the Alliance is proud to recognize these extraordinary young poets and to offer a platform that amplifies their voices. Now more than ever, we look to a rising generation of creative leaders to demonstrate the power that poetry and the literary arts have to inspire, galvanize, and unite communities. We are excited to work with these five exceptional teens to engage museums, libraries, and schools in the year ahead, and we are eager to see all that they will accomplish.”
The National Student Poets Program has showcased the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success for audiences across the country since its inception in 2011. The 50 National Student Poets have participated in community service projects, visiting more than one hundred cities, performing at more than eighty national poetry events, and mentoring hundreds of future poets. The Poets have traveled to libraries, museums, youth centers, reservations, and hospitals, and worked with military-connected youth, rural youth, and special-needs children. They have performed their work numerous times at Lincoln Center and the White House.
Salma Mohammad, Class of 2019, said: “I was often very hesitant of my work as a poet since it was something I didn’t see as very impactful to the world. However, poetry was the one thing that connected me to my bilingual tongue, my two cultures, my history, and social justice. These were all aspects necessary to nourishing my soul and identity, yet I always placed that second to societal expectation. When I was appointed as the National Student Poet for the Midwest region by Alliance for Young Writers, it offered me assurance that my poetry is impactful, meaningful, and something I should pursue regardless of what others think. It helped me gain confidence in myself, my politics, and my culture. It reoriented my perspective of poetry as something ‘part-time’ to something that could nourish all aspects of my life.”