Kristen Dupard may not write acclaimed poetry, but she certainly ranks among the elite when it comes to reciting and interpreting poems.
Dupard, who graduated from Ridgeland (Miss.) High School in May, was crowned the 2012 Poetry Out Loud national champion during the annual competition held last month in Washington, D.C. She plans to attend The University of Southern Mississippi as a freshman for the upcoming fall semester.
The competition began last September with more than 365,000 students in grades nine through 12, representing approximately 2,255 high schools. Dupard emerged as one of 53 contestants -- which included the 50 U.S. states; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. In addition to a beautiful trophy, Dupard also collected a $20,000 first prize.
“Upon entering the national contest, I felt that the chances of winning were slim, but not impossible,” said Dupard. “After hearing my name called I just felt so honored and blessed to be a part of a program that lets high school kids serve as orators for these remarkable poems.”
After advancing through the semi-finals to become one of nine finalists, Dupard’s final recitation featured “Invitation to Love,” a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, widely recognized as the first important black poet in American literature. She also recited Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” and Cornelius Eady’s “I’m a Fool To Love You.”
The 2012 contest marked Dupard’s second straight appearance in Washington after capturing the state title last year. Malcolm White, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, was not surprised to see Dupard rise above the other competitors.
“We are so proud of Kristen and her accomplishments,” said White. “We knew she would be an outstanding representative for our state and that she had the talent and drive to bring home the top honor in the national Poetry Out Loud contest.”
Like most people, Dupard said her initial memory of poetry dates back to her early childhood years.
“I remember when all the little boys wrote the ‘roses are red; violets are blue’ stuff just so the girls would pay them a little attention,” she said. “One of the biggest reasons I love poetry so much is because it gives so many people an alternative outlet to express themselves. I also feel that it’s another way of letting someone know what’s really on your mind.”
Dupard graduated in the upper 10 percent of her class at Ridgeland High where she participated on the basketball and powerlifting teams. A member of the Ambassadors and Beta clubs, she also served as a Junior Diplomat for the City of Ridgeland.
Dupard said she plans to major in nursing at Southern Miss and minor in broadcast journalism. A native of New Orleans, she is the daughter of Kenneth and Angela Dupard.
To learn more about the Poetry Out Loud program, visit: www.poetryoutloud.org