Inaugural Class of Five Outstanding High School Students Appointed as National Student Poets by White House Committee

Announced today by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, these five teens will serve as literary ambassadors during the program's first year

WASHINGTON — Sept. 23, 2012 — Five teenagers demonstrated to the 2012 Library of Congress National Book Festival audience this weekend that poetry is alive and thriving amongst our nation's youth. At a special ceremony during the Festival, Luisa Banchoff, age 17, of Arlington, VA, Miles Hewitt, age 17, of Vancouver, WA, Claire Lee, age 16, of New York, NY, Natalie Richardson, age 17, of Oak Park, IL, and Lylla Younes, age 17, of Alexandria, LA were appointed as the inaugural class of literary ambassadors for the National Student Poets Program, the nation's highest honor for young poets presenting original work. The program, a signature initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, honors, promotes, and celebrates young people as makers and doers who can inspire their peers to achieve excellence in their creative endeavors.

As Honorary Chairman of the President's Committee, First Lady Michelle Obama expressed to the students in her congratulatory letter to them, "As a National Student Poet, you now have the unique opportunity to share your accomplishments with the rest of the country; you have the opportunity to lift up and inspire others. I believe that what you learn while reading and writing poetry will stay with you for the rest of your life, and I sincerely hope you continue to use your creativity and imagination throughout your term as literary ambassador and beyond."

The five National Student Poets, whose yearlong commitment begins today, were selected from a pool of outstanding writers, grades 9-11, who received a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for poetry through the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Chosen by a panel of distinguished jurors, the National Student Poets were evaluated based on their creativity, promise, and dedication to craft. The jurors included Robert Casper, (Head of the Poetry and Literature Center, Library of Congress); Mayda de Valle (Poet); Andrea Gibson (Poet); Kimiko Hahn (Poet); Terrance Hayes (Poet); James Kass (Founder and Executive Director, Youth Speaks); David Lynn (Editor, Kenyon Review); Alice Quinn (Executive Director, Poetry Society of America); Jeff Tweedy (Musician); and Kerry Washington (Actress).

"The diverse talents and subjects of these young writers suggest they will be tomorrow's most luminous poets, as well as tomorrow's brightest innovators and leaders: philosopher-poets, doctor-poets, musician-poets, scientist-poets. I hope this honor inspires them in every possible way, because as I read their work, I was certainly inspired by them," said Terrance Hayes, recipient of the 2010 National Book Award for Poetry.

In addition to serving as literary ambassadors for poetry through readings and workshops at libraries, museums, and schools in their respective geographic regions, the National Student Poets will each receive an academic award of $5,000 funded by the Bernstein Family Foundation, and mentoring and feedback on their work. During their one-year tenure, each student will serve as a resource for the U.S. Department of Education and the Library of Congress. They will also complete a community service project to help build awareness for the importance of creative expression and literacy, as well as the appreciation of poetry.

The National Student Poets Program reflects the national imprimatur of the President's Committee in advancing arts education, links the National Student Poets with audiences and resources in their neighborhoods through IMLS's community-based network of libraries and museums, and builds upon the Alliance's long-standing work with educators and creative teens through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which recently announced its 90th annual call for submissions in all categories. Students in grades 9-11 who are interested in becoming a National Student Poet can submit their work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards throughout the fall; the National Award winners in poetry, to be announced in the spring of 2013, will then be eligible for the Program. More information on the National Student Poets Program can be found at

The National Student Poets Program is an initiative 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, in coordination with the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Academic awards are provided by the Bernstein Family Foundation. More information on the National Student Poets Program can be found at

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and community revitalization. First Lady Michelle Obama, like other first ladies before her, serves as honorary chairman of the committee.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Through grant making, policy development, and research, we help communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning. To learn more about IMLS, please visit

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, identifies teenagers with exceptional creative talent and brings their remarkable work to a national audience through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Founded in 1923, the Awards is the longest-running, most prestigious program of its kind, having fostered the creativity and talent of millions of students through recognition, exhibitions and publications. Over the past five years alone, students have submitted nearly 700,000 pieces of work and over $25 million has been made available in scholarships and awards to top winning participants.