When Rosie Reyes began a poetry unit in her junior English class earlier this school year, she never imagined she’d be preparing for a national competition in Washington, D.C.

Reyes, a 17-year-old student at Gresham’s Center for Advanced Learning, will represent Oregon in the National Poetry Out Loud competition April 29-30, memorizing and reciting classic poetry.

“My drive to excel is to disprove the stereotypes,” Reyes said. “Women and people of color have had a hard time in history and even today. To be part of both categories, I strive to succeed so I can inspire people in those categories. It is a huge honor to represent Oregon as a minority and as a woman.”


Inspired by the theme of love, Reyes chose “Break of Day” by John Donne, “Interlude” by Amy Lowell and “Ego” by Denise Duhamel as her three poems to recite for the state competition March 16.

As a state winner, Reyes was awarded $500 for her school to buy poetry books and a $200 cash prize. She will compete for more than $35,000 in scholarships at the national competition. Mark Turner, an English teacher and Rosie’s coach, will accompany her in Washington, D.C.

“Rosie is completely fearless when it comes to memorizing poems,” Turner said. “I can throw anything at her and she’s doesn’t flinch at all. Her confidence in front of a group is impressive. We’re both excited to represent CAL at nationals — everything now is just adding to this amazing experience.”

A Troutdale resident, Reyes is a member of her junior class council and plays the piano. She dreams of becoming a physical therapist.

“I like to take advantage of all the opportunities given to me,” Reyes said. “I feel honored to be a part of this competition.”

Reyes was one of 6,000 Oregon students who competed in Poetry Out Loud. The competition is a program of the Oregon Arts Commission, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, aiming to revive poetry as an oral art form.

“There is nothing like seeing a young person’s fire lit up,” said Carol Egan, director of CAL. “To see her shine and reach for the stars with no hesitation — that’s what we’re helping our students achieve. She is a great role model for students at CAL and represents what every teacher hopes for.”

For more information about Poetry Out Loud, call 503-986-0082 or visit

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