Alex Armstrong

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Alex Armstrong, a senior at Sunset High School, is moving on to the state Poetry Out Loud competition after being selected as the county’s winner.

“The arts mean everything to me,” Armstrong told the county board of supervisors during a presentation Tuesday. “Poetry is an art that I’ve just recently learned to enjoy. Poetry Out Loud has helped me by showing me how impactful my voice can be.”

This is the third year Del Norte County will be represented at the statewide competition, which invites students from across the state to memorize and recite poetry to practice public speaking and literary history skills.

“The Poetry Out Loud program encourages students to study great classic and modern poetry – everything from William Blake, to Robert Frost, to Maya Angelou,” said Stephanie La Torre, executive director of DNACA, which coordinates the program locally. “We’re very grateful for Sunset High School’s enthusiastic and committed involvement in the Poetry Out Loud program, because we believe it directly helps students learn more about their potential and the ability to propel them even further in their pursuits.”

According to Kelly Troyna, Sunset’s English teacher, after Armstrong was selected as the county winner form a field of 47 students who chose poems for classroom contests, the next phase of the competition means statewide judges will consider recordings Armstrong sent in of three different poetry readings.

If he’s successful at the state level, he’ll move on to the national Poetry Out Loud competition, which La Torre said has reached 16,000 schools since it began in 2005.

“The students who choose to participate in Poetry Out Loud make me deeply proud not only because of their achievements, but because of the long trail of steps that each one has taken to get to this point,’ Troyna told supervisors. “It takes courage. It takes humility. It takes patience.”

Armstrong received a certificate of recognition from the state legislature for his win — but he wasn’t the only one recognized.

Troyna, the only teacher in the county who participated in the program this year, was also recognized by the legislature.

“We also received an unexpected acknowledgement when Kelly Troyna received a Certificate of Recognition by the state legislature celebrating her ‘incredible service to the students of Del Norte County,’” said Principal Tony Fabricius.

The program is about more than just poetry, according to La Torre.

“By participating in Poetry Out Loud, students build self-confidence, master public speaking skills, and learn about literary history and contemporary life,” La Torre said.

Armstrong, who recited “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley for the board, agreed.

“From here, I know that I can truly use my voice to be a positive influence and pursue a challenging and rewarding career. I have become the leader of my own life,” Armstrong said.

Supervisors congratulated Armstrong on the recognition.

“It’s rare that we get to provide a platform like this, and often times that gets lost under these uncertain times,” said Board Chair Chris Howard. “But the more positivity we can show about our youth succeeding during these times, the better off we are as a community.”

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