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Sioux City Heelan Student Wins 2019 Poetry Out Loud in Iowa State Finals

Mar 5, 2019

DES MOINES – Foster Johnson of Sioux City Heelan took first place in the 2019 Poetry Out Loud State Finals Sunday, giving the Siouxland its sixth straight state champion. Johnson is the third Heelan student to win the championship in the past four years.

She won this year's competition with recitations of "The Moonlight" by Noah Buchholz, "Love's Philosophy" by Percy Bysshe Shelley and "Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings" by Juan Felipe Herrerra. Elaine Schippers of Pella took second and Grace Kiple of Sergeant Bluffs-Luton came in third. Kiple took first place in 2017 and second place in 2018.

With the victory, Johnson receives a $200 cash prize, $500 for her school to purchase poetry books and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she will represent Iowa at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals at George Washington University April 30 through May 1. Students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will compete for the national championship and $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends. Cash prizes, stipends, travel expenses and accommodations are provided by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to Poetry Out Loud, Johnson is a member of the National Honor Society and a state debate participant and has been in the Iowa All State Chorus. She plans on becoming a trauma surgeon or a high school teacher.

"I have always been fascinated by science, and especially how the human body works," she said. "I really want to have a career where I can help as many people as possible."

This year, nearly 1,000 students in Iowa participated in Poetry Out Loud programs at school and district levels, memorizing and reciting poems in front of their classmates and judges. The experience helps them develop public-speaking and critical-thinking skills.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation created Poetry Out Loud in 2005 and they continue to provide state arts agencies free, standards-based curriculum materials for participating schools, including an online poetry anthology and a program guide to help instructors teach recitation and performance.

Student competitors are judged on accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, evidence of understanding and overall performance. This year's judges were author Jennifer Knox, Iowa Artist Fellow Lauren Haldeman and Darrin Crow, a speech coach at Cedar Valley Christian School in Cedar Rapids.

Overall, more than 300,000 students across the country participated in the program this year.

A list of Iowa’s past state Poetry Out Loud champions follows:

2018- Sarah Beumler of Sioux City Heelan
2017 - Grace Kiple of Sioux City's LAMB School of Theatre and Music
2016 - Grace Beumler of Sioux City Heelan
2015 - Josie Kasik of Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School
2014 - Josie Everett of Sioux City’s LAMB Arts Regional Theatre
2013 - Dakota Meyer of the Iowa School for the Deaf
2012 - Gwen Morrison of Marshalltown High School
2011 - Grace Rants of Sioux City East High School
2010 - John-Emmett Mahon of Sioux City’s PeaceMakers Academy
2009 - Mia Pierson of Roland-Story
2008 - Emily Mortvedt of Roland-Story
2007 - Spencer Gilbert of West Des Moines Valley
2006 - Ashley Baccam of Des Moines East

Poetry Out Loud is overseen in Iowa by the Iowa Arts Council and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.The Iowa Arts Council is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. More information about the Poetry Out Loud program is available at Additional information is available at

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.