On April 24, Elizabethtown High School senior Kiara Jones became the first Kentucky student to advance to the final round of the Poetry Out Loud National Finals since 2011, but competition was the last thing on her mind in the annual poetry recitation contest.
“You go there and you perform. There’s no bitterness or rudeness from anyone going into the competition,” she said. “I felt really appreciated after my recitations.”
The atmosphere at the host site, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was congenial, she said, with champions from the 50 states and three United States territories easily forming friendships.
“We clicked,” she said. “I got a chance to talk to almost everyone there. It was a good experience.”
With a little free time between competition rounds, Kiara was able to see Washington, D.C., visiting monuments and museums. She met with her representative in the U.S. Congress, Brett Guthrie, and heard French President Emmanuel Macron speak during his recent diplomatic visit to the U.S.
Though she did not finish among the top three in the finals, Kiara was not disappointed by the experience. Among the important lessons she learned was the importance of building up others.
“I learned that encouraging other people helped me to be encouraged and put together,” she said. “When I told others how well they did, they sent that same energy back to me.”
With graduation near, Kiara has her sights set on college. She was just offered, and accepted, a Presidential Fellowship from Murray State University, where she will start in the fall, majoring in pre-veterinary medicine.
The Kentucky Arts Council is proud of Kiara’s performance in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. She is an exemplary ambassador for our state, and we wish her well as she navigates the road ahead.