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Heitmann competes at National Poetry Out Loud Competition

Update: Russell Heitmann, a finalist among nine, competed in the National Poetry Out Loud finals, May 15, in Washington D.C., where he recited “Poem With One Fact” by Donald Hall in the first round, and “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold in the second. Following the competition, the field was narrowed to three finalists to compete for the championship.

Kristen Dupard of Mississippi, MarKaye Hassan of Utah, and Claude Mumbere of Vermont went on to compete in the final round.

In a short interview following the second round of the finals competition, Russ was asked what he like most about Washington, D.C. With nary a pause, the Thayer Central junior said “The food,” and with a specific reference to Mediterranean cuisine and burgers, Heitmann said, “Let’s just say we (his family) used the money provided to us well.” During his competition Russ was able to win $500 for poetry materials for Thayer Central as well as $1,000 for himself. He is the son of Darcy and Anne Heitmann of Hebron.

Advances to Nationals in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Hebron’s own Russell Heitmann won the Nebraska Poetry Out Loud state championship in March held at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln. Students from eleven high schools competed in the poetry recitation event after advancing from regional semi-final competitions held in Kearney, Norfolk and Omaha during February.

The Nebraska Arts Council coordinates Poetry Out Loud for the state. It is part of a national program, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

Russell Heitmann, a junior at Thayer Central Community Schools, won the state championship. His recitations of “Poem with One Fact” by Donald Hall, “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold and “Broken Promises” by David Kirby earned him the first place title this year.

Russell will receive a $200 cash award, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. There, he will compete in the national Poetry Out Loud competition to be held May 14-15, for prizes and awards totaling $50,000. His school will also receive $500 to be used toward the purchase of poetry books for its library. English teachers Karen Boatright and Anne Roesner Heitmann coordinate Poetry Out for Thayer Central Community Schools. Russell is the son of Darcy and Anne Heitmann of Hebron.

Carleigh Schuman, a junior at Parkview Christian School in Lincoln, placed second in the competition. Sophomore Grace Eliason from Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha placed third in the competition. Her school’s program is coordinated by English teacher Sherri Hoye.

The top three contestants each received an original hand-blown glass trophy, and all eleven students received poetry books courtesy of the Backwaters Press and the University of Nebraska Press, as well as Barnes and Noble gift certificates courtesy of Nebraskans for the Arts.

Judges for the event include Jim Fritzler, Professor of Theatre at Hastings College, poet Twyla Hansen of Lincoln, Tricia Parker, Director of Language Arts for the Nebraska Department of Education in Lincoln and actor D. Kevin Williams of Omaha. Marjorie Maas, Director of Nebraskans for the Arts, served as accuracy judge. The event was emceed by poet Matt Mason of Omaha.

For more information on Nebraska’s Poetry Out Loud program, contact Anne Alston, Education and Communities manager at the Nebraska Arts Council. Call 402/595-2122 or email anne.alston@nebraska.gov.

The Nebraska Arts Council, a state agency, provides numerous grants, services and special initiatives that help sustain and promote the arts throughout Nebraska. The NAC is supported by the Nebraska Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

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