Calhoun High School sophomore a finalist in 'Poetry Out Loud'


Calhoun High School sophomore, Ryan Karis was one of 18 finalists at this year’s Poetry Out Loud Competition in Manhattan. Poetry Out Loud is an arts education program that encourages the study of poetry in high school students across the country at dynamic recitation competitions.

Karis was named a finalist at the competition which took place in March.

Karis started with the Poetry Out Loud competition last year as a freshman. She had a wonderful experience, she said, as she advanced to the second round of the Nassau County competition.

“It was an amazing experience, and this year I was so happy to win second place at (the) county and make it to the state level,” said Karis.

To reach the state level, the students first competed at regional semifinals in February. At both semifinals and finals, participants recited works from classic and contemporary poets and were scored by a panel of judges that included poets and educators.

Since its establishment in 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools across the country.

Karis performed three poems   “When You Are Old,” by William Butler Yeats, “Whenever You See A Tree,” by Padma Venkatraman, and her personal favorite, “Once The World Was Perfect,” by Joy Harjo.

“Picking out the poems was kind of difficult because you want to make sure you’re able to memorize them but also have something that represents well,” Karis said. “The whole competition is based on how you deliver the poems emotionally and physically.”

Karis volunteered and expressed her interest in participating in this year’s competition. She received assistance from English teacher Dawn Boland on picking out her first two poems for the competition. Boland offered her unconditional support and cheered on Karis all the way.

“Ryan is a very smart, very driven young person and it almost goes without saying that she’s going to do everything she can in her power to be successful,” said Boland.

With Calhoun High School being the more arts forward of the three schools in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, Karis’s achievement speaks volumes for students who are interested in poetry recitation and for the English department.

Calhoun hosted a school-wide competition in December and each year they have student’s move on to the higher levels of competition. According to Kim Serpe, a Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District English Chairperson, Calhoun has not had a student make it to the state level in four years.

“It pulls a very specific type of student who likes that thing (poetry), it’s not a sport, instrument, it’s something that’s very specific that supports the English language arts specifically,” Serpe said