Working Together for a Bright Future

Jeremy Rasmussen repeats as Poetry Out Loud winner

Vineland High School senior Jeremy Rasmussen won his second “Poetry Out Loud” title on Friday after delivering animated recitations of the poems “Watching the Perseids” by Isabel Rogers and “Ode to the Midwest” by Kevin Young during the school-level competition at VHS South.

Runner-up was senior Geovanni Perez.  

Rasmussen and Perez were among 11 students from VHS North, South, and the Applied Math and Science Academy who vied for the top spot at the school and a chance to move on to the Region 2 competition Feb. 20 at the Appel Farm Arts & Music Center, according to Vanessa Rasmussen, Advanced Placement English teacher and department chairperson at the high school.

At the morning competition, the contestants performed on stage before an audience of fellow students from a several different level English classes.

Rasmussen reprised one of his poems from last year, “Watching the Perseids,” because of the impact it made on him.

“I’ve done this two or three years now,” he said. “So I have it memorized and I like it a lot because it has to do with how we see the world as one little spec but the universe is so expansive and we come back to being the center of our own little universes.”

His second choice, “Ode to the Midwest,” was a new addition this year, and one that he had actually recommended to fellow competitors in the past.

“I’ve liked it since ninth grade because of the humor in it,” he said. “But I recommended it for somebody else and I never did it myself. But then I started relating to it more and more this year so I just took it.”

At the Regional and State levels, there are three rounds, so Rasmussen will add another poem to his repertoire. One of the poems must be pre-20th Century, and one must be 25 lines or fewer.

“This year was really tough,” Vanessa Rasmussen said of the competition. “All of the kids that we had were really, really good. Everyone who volunteered to do it was really strong.”

If Jeremy Rasmussen is unable to perform in the Region 2 competition, Perez will represent Vineland. Region 2 includes schools in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland Counties.

Perez chose his poems – “”Contraction” by Ravi Shankar and “BLK History Month” by Nikki Giovanni – for very different reasons.

“Mine were short, but they were tastefully short,” Perez said. “I really liked the first one because it involved personality.”

The second he chose in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday and upcoming Black History Month in February.

Both had slightly different ways they prepared for the competition. Rasmussen, in his fourth competition, relied on some of his tried and true routines.

“It was a lot of practicing with my mom, because I have a great resource in her,” he said. He also practiced in front of the mirror and then recited the poems for different people to gather feedback.

Perez spent a lot of time researching the background and structure of the poems to get a better feel for how they should be recited. He then recorded himself reciting the poems and used that to improve.

Each of the students were judged by: Nancy Hollenweger, Supervisor of Language Arts, who served as the Accuracy Judge; Lindsey Thies, English teacher, who served as tally judge; Amy Munsick, English teacher; Natalie Reynolds, Media Specialist; Jennifer Lanning, English Literacy Coach; and Dan Kuzma, Social Studies teacher. Scores were based on physical presence, articulation, performance and level of difficulty.

Besides Rasmussen and Perez, the other nine students who performed were: Zara Elahi, Jago Gonzalez, Anthony Jimenez, Mackenzie Tirado, Katherine Rasmussen, Kenny Rojas Tezna, Keyshla Seda, Beth Kraus, and Gianni Rolle.

Before announcing the top five contestants, the audience engaged in an interactive recitation of the popular poem “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost. Nearly 20 students took the stage to recite the poem as a group.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Participating teachers use the Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitation and run classroom competitions. Students select, memorize, and recite poems from an anthology of more than 700 classic and contemporary poems. The competition begins at the school level before advancing to regional and then state competitions. The winner of the state competition wins a trip to the National Finals in Washington, DC, where they have a shot at winning $20,000. Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state, Washington, DC, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Pictured (L-R): Jeremy Rasmussen, winner; Vanessa Rasmussen, English teacher and organizer; and Geovanni Perez, runner up

Please click on the following link for a gallery of photos from the event:

The event was also recorded by VPS Broadcasting and will be available on our YouTube Channel, VLDSchoolsTV soon and air on Comcast ch. 9 and Verizon Fios 41 early next week.