California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 29, 2016Caitlin Fitzwater

Sacramento County’s Chigozie Maduchukwu Named California Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Zayan Reza from Ventura County and Miriam Sachs from Los Angeles County named first and second runners-up in the state finals

Sacramento -

  Chigozie Maduchukwu, a junior at Pleasant Grove High School in Sacramento County, took first place in the 2016 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud and will represent the Golden State in Washington, D.C. at the national finals in May. Chigozie recited "Filling Station" by Elizabeth Bishop, "Let the Light Enter" by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and "The Bad Old Days" by Kenneth Rexroth. His teacher is Russell Young.

Chigoze stated, "Poetry Out Loud is one of my favorite activities to participate in during the school year, mostly because it requires me to connect to an artistic and analytical part of myself that I usually don't engage in during the school year."

Zayan Reza, a junior at El Camino High School in Ventura County, was the first runner-up and will represent California in the national finals if Chigozie is unable to attend. Miriam Sachs, a student at Mira Costa High School in Los Angeles County, was the second runner-up.

Click here to download a hi-resolution photo of Chigozie at today's State Finals: (Photo credit: Wendy Moran, California Arts Council)

This year marks the eleventh time the California Arts Council has produced the annual state competition, the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 30,000 students in 39 California counties participating. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA,) Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

"The California Poetry Out Loud state final is an extremely competitive contest, and all the county champions are remarkable young men and women," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "California's extraordinary diversity and creativity is well represented in these talented young people who participated today, and we are delighted that Chigozie will represent California in the national finals."

A list of all of the county winners, their high schools, and the poems they chose can be found at

About Poetry Out Loud

The state finals began on the evening of Sunday, February 28, at the Sacramento Sheraton (Round 1), and finished the morning of Monday, February 29 (Rounds 2 and 3) at the State Capitol in Assembly Room 4202. A video recording of Monday's competition is available at

The California state final is the culminating competition in California between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

Chigozie Maduchukwu, 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 this May, and his school will receive $500 for books. Zayan Reza, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at her school.

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The Mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Nashormeh Lindo, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at


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