2017 Class of National Student Poets Announced

Cathy Lasiewicz, Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, 212-343-6260, LasiewiczPR@gmail.com

Five Teens Selected for the Country’s Most Prestigious Youth Poetry Honor
Year of service begins with appointment ceremony at Library of Congress

NEW YORK – August 14, 2017 – The National Student Poets Program (NSPP) has announced its sixth class of youth poets. Five teenagers have been chosen from among thousands of award-winning poets to receive the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. To be considered for appointment as a National Student Poet, students first must receive a national medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nearly century-old program known for its recognition and celebration of the country’s creative teens. The National Student Poets Program is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers which administers the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

The distinguished student poets will be appointed by the Librarian of Congress and the Director of the IMLS at a ceremony August 31 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Other appointment events during the National Book Festival weekend include public readings of the National Student Poets’ work and a private workshop for the students with 21st US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Throughout the year, the poets will serve as literary ambassadors and will share their passion for poetry and the literary arts with their communities and at libraries and museums throughout their regions. This will be done through service projects, workshops, and public readings. In addition, each poet will receive a $5,000 academic award.

The National Student Poets Program is open to high school sophomores and juniors who submit work to, and receive a national medal from, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. This year out of a pool of more than three hundred award-winning poets representing 40 states from Hawaii to Massachusetts, 35 semi-finalists were invited to submit additional poetry and performance videos to distinguished jurors for final selection as National Student Poets.

Representing five geographical regions of the nation, the 2017 National Student Poets are:

  • Annie Castillo, age 16 of Falls Church, VA, junior at George Mason High School
  • Kinsale Hueston, age 17 of Corona del Mar, CA, senior at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
  • Ben Lee, age 16 of Edina, MN, junior at The Blake School
  • Juliet Lubwama, age 17 of Downingtown, PA, senior at Downingtown STEM Academy
  • Camila Sanmiguel, age 17 of Laredo, TX, senior at J.B. Alexander High School

All student submissions in consideration for the National Student Poets Program are judged by a jury of literary luminaries and leaders in education and the arts based on exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. This year’s panel of judges included:

  • Jennifer Benka (poet and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets)
  • Richard Blanco (United States Inaugural Poet)
  • Ann Burg (award-winning poet and fiction writer)
  • Kyle Dargan (poet and recipient of Cave Canem Poetry Prize)
  • Juan Felipe Herrera (21st US Poet Laureate)
  • Edward Hirsch (poet and President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation)
  • Rickey Laurentiis (poet and recipient of Cave Canem Poetry Prize)
  • Robin Coste Lewis (winner of National Book Award for Poetry)
  • Marilyn Nelson (award-winning poet and translator)
  • Alice Quinn (Executive Director, Poetry Society of America)


Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director, Alliance for Young Artists & Writers:
“The judges selected these 5 outstanding poets from among a record number of poetry submissions to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. That tells us not only that these are exceptionally talented poets but also that young people look to poetry…writing it, reading it, and sharing it…as an outlet and an enduring form of expression during their teen years. The Alliance supports the National Student Poets and works to give greater visibility to their voice and to the perspective of today’s youth. It’s important for all of us to hear it.”

Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services:
“IMLS is proud to provide support to the National Student Poets Program through the amazing work of these five talented individuals,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “The efforts of the poets who will serve as ambassadors for their creative written form aligns with the work of museums and libraries across the U.S. that strive every day to promote learning, literacy and creativity.”

John Abodeely, Acting Executive Director, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
“The President’s Committee is excited to welcome a new class of National Student Poets. These exceptional teens have reached thousands of Americans—both young people and adults—over the last several years, illuminating the unique value of poetry and creativity in all of our lives.”

Juan Felipe Herrera, former US Poet Laureate 2015-2017:
“It is time to celebrate our National Student Poets — let them call out the now verses of America. Welcome these unique visionaries. They will journey through our cities and lands with their hearts and hands brimming with the new idea. Moving, calling out — tender lightning — lighting who we are. Bravo!”

Michaela Coplen, National Student Poet Class of 2013:
“My experience with the National Student Poets Program was world-opening; I came to see how all things in life had a place in poetry, and poetry a place in all things. My term was both a platform to share what I wanted the world to hear and an opportunity to step back and listen to what the world said to me. The poems I read and the people I met profoundly changed me and continue to guide my path today. Through this experience I became an activist, ambassador, educator, and facilitator--and found that all of these were synonyms for ’poet’."


The National Student Poets are selected every year from among students in grades 10-11 who submit work for and receive top honors in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the 95-year-old scholarship and recognition program for teen artists and writers. From this pool of national medal recipients, 35 semi-finalists are identified through blind adjudication as the most gifted young poets in their regions, based on their originality, technical skills and personal voice. These students then submit additional poetry and performance videos, and their work is reviewed by a distinguished jury for the final selection of five National Student Poets, determined by additional criteria of creativity, dedication to craft and promise.


Since its inception in 2011, 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. All 25 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; worked with military-connected youth, rural youth, special-needs children and recent immigrants. They have performed their work numerous times at Lincoln Center and the White House, have been honored six years running at Carnegie Hall, have been invited to attend and present their work at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and have attended private workshops and master classes with renowned poets, including US Poets Laureate, and literary leaders.

To learn more about the impact and history of the NSPP, watch this short video and visit the Scholastic media room: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/artandwriting.


The National Student Poets Program—a collaboration of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers—strives to inspire other young people to achieve excellence in their own creative endeavors and promote the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success. The program links the National Student Poets with audiences and neighborhood resources such as museums and libraries, and other community-anchor institutions and builds upon the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers' long-standing work with educators and creative teens through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The Poets’ appointment events are hosted in cooperation with the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and held in conjunction with the National Book Festival. More information on the NSPP can be found at www.artandwriting.org/NSPP.

Created in 1982 by Executive Order, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. The PCAH works directly with the Administration and the three primary cultural agencies—National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to address policy questions in the arts and humanities, to initiate and support key programs in those disciplines, and to recognize excellence in the field. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and community revitalization. Ex Officio, the First Lady serves as honorary chairman of the committee, which is composed of both private and public members.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's approximately 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums and related organizations. The agency’s mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS’s grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization, identifies teenagers with exceptional artistic and literary talent and brings their remarkable work to a national audience through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Founded in 1923, the Awards program is the longest-running, most prestigious initiative of its kind, having fostered the creativity and development of millions of young people through recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarships. During the past six years alone, students have submitted well over a million works of art and writing, and the program has provided more than $30 million in scholarships and awards for top participants. To learn more, visit www.artandwriting.org.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services, and other programs, or plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.