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CORBIN GOMEZ to represent California at Poetry Out Loud nationals in DC in April


© Brian Baer/CAC

See and hear California’s Poetry Out Loud 2012 finalists at the California Channel (March 25 & 26) | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Photo credit: Brian Baer / California Arts Council 2012

Mohammad Shehata from Fresno County took second, and Jonathon Bermea from Tuolumne County was third in an extremely close competition

El Dorado County’s Corbin Gomez to represent California in Poetry Out Loud nationals

By Mary Beth Barber
© California Arts Council
March 26, 2012

Corbin Gomez, a senior at Oak Ridge in El Dorado County, took first place in the 2012 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud. Mohommad Shehata, a senior at Clovis West High School in Fresno County, was the first runner-up and will represent California in the national finals if Gomez is unable to attend. Jonathon Bermea, a senior at Sonora High School in Tuolumne County, was the second runner-up.

Three other students made it to the final round, including (in no particular order) Madeleine Centrella (Santa Barbara County), Austin Carr (Solano County), and Brittany Wiltz (Sacramento County). A list of all of the county winners and links to their high schools follows this release. The competition took place on the evening of Sunday, March 25, at the Sacramento Sheraton (Round 1), and the morning of Monday, March 26 (Rounds 2 and 3), on the state Senate floor. Video recordings of both days will be made available soon at

“We have a very strong contender and compelling young voice to represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals this spring in Corbin Gomez,” said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. “But all these students in the California state finals today are champions. This was my first Poetry Out Loud state finals since joining the Arts Council, and I was amazed at the level of talent in the room.”

More photos of the Poetry Out Loud top three winners are available for publication. Photo credit: Brian Baer/California Arts Council 2012.

Dana Gioia, the acclaimed poet who initiated Poetry Out Loud during his tenure as the former Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), was on hand Sunday and Monday and spoke about the importance of the program and the arts in general. “The main reason I took (the job as NEA Chair) was that everywhere I went in the United States as a poet, someone in the audience would tell me how the arts education program had been taken out of their school,” he said. “It struck me as a disaster that in this country as we enter the 21st Century — a time when America is not going to compete on cheap labor but on ingenuity, on creativeness, on innovation – we have taken imagination out of the educational system and are not properly educating our kids.”

“The purpose of arts education is not to produce artists,” continued Gioia. “It is to produce complete human beings.”

This year marks the seventh time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition — the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in approximately 33 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California state finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

“Poetry Out Loud facilitates the ability of an ordinary person like me to experience something truly extraordinary through the art of poetry recitation,” said Gomez.

Photo: El Dorado County Arts Council

Gomez, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He will go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, and his school will receive $500 for books. Shehata, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

The state’s Poetry Out Loud program is directed by the California Arts Council, and was initiated by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level. The California Arts Council would like to thank the Target Corporation for sponsoring the state’s program and helping bring California Poetry Out Loud to as many California high school students as possible.

Additional thanks are extended to the California Channel and its staff, who allowed Monday’s portion of the competition to be broadcast and webcast, and who video recorded Sunday’s program for later viewing both on California Channel cable stations as well as webcast at The California Channel has had a long history with the California Poetry Out Loud program, and the organization won a Telly in 2007 for their hour-long program on that year’s state finals.

Also essential to the success of the program is the staff from the state Senate, including Senate TV who recorded Rounds 2 and 3 from the Senate floor and made the airing and live webcast by the California Channel possible.

Members of the press interested in California’s Poetry Out Loud program may contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, More general information, including a list of poems the students chose to recite, can be found on the California Arts Council website ( under the Home/What’s New tab. A list of all the county winners follows this release.

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California Poetry Out Loud 2012
County Champions (in alphabetical order by County)

Alameda County
Michelle Yang, Oakland Military Institute

Contra Costa County
Denica Garcia, Salesian High School

El Dorado County
Corbin Gomez, Oak Ridge High School

Fresno County
Mohammad R. Shehata, Clovis West High School

Humboldt County
Terra Trujillo Ashbrook, North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy

Inyo County
Elizabeth Richards, Big Pine High School

Lake County
Sylvia Manners, Lower Lake High School

Los Angeles County
Calvin Lam, San Gabriel High School

Madera County
Michelle Linn, Glacier High School

Marin County
Douglas Pardella, Redwood High

Mendocino County
Elijah Ravitz-Campbell, Mendocino Community High School

Modoc County
Tahlia Guzman, Surprise Valley High School

Mono County
Ashley Garrison, Mammoth High School

Monterey County
Arwa Awan, Pacific Grove High School

Napa County
Emily Mourraille, New Technology High School

Nevada County
Jeremy Van Hecke, Ghidotti Early College High School

Orange County
Ellen Webre, Orange County High School of the Arts

Placer County
Helen Bansen, Truckee High School

Riverside County
N’kem Ehiemere, Nuview Bridge Early College High School

Sacramento County
Brittany Wiltz, Natomas Charter School

San Diego County
Oscar Sanchez Cid del Prado, Valley Center High School

San Francisco County
Abigail Schott-Rosenfield, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts

San Luis Obispo County
Blythe Berg, Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School

Santa Barbara County
Madeleine Centrella, Dos Pueblos High School

Siskiyou County
Nicholas Cordell, Yreka High School

Solano County
Austin Carr, Benicia High School

Sonoma County
Brynna Thigpen, Maria Carrillo High School

Stanislaus County
Kathryn Harlan-Gran, James Enochs High School

Sutter County
Molly Grover, C.O.R.E. Camptonville Academy

Tuolumne County
Jonathon Bermea, Sonora High School

Ventura County
Jeremy Brooks, El Camino High School

Yolo County
Ella Rose Eldon, Esparto High School

Yuba County
Ocil HerrejĂłn, Lindhurst High School

© 2012 California Arts Council


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