SALT LAKE CITY — Rebecca Dau Manyiel Akec, a junior at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, was Utah’s representative at the national Poetry Out Loud competition, which was held April 24-25 in Washington, D.C. The competition included students representing every state, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I had never traveled far except for the day I came to the United States from where I was born, in Cairo, Egypt,” Akec said. “To have been given this opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. was very mind blowing.”
Reflecting on the experience, Akec, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier School in Kearns, thanked all of the people who supported her along the way.
“I have so many amazing people in my life who helped me feel comfortable and secure upon my travel to Washington D.C.,” she said. “I am always thankful to all of them. This was a trip that my father and I will never forget.”
Poetry Out Loud is the nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition. The national finalists advanced from a field of more than 300,000 students nationwide to match skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou.
“Way before the 2018 Poetry Out Loud competition, I was surprisingly not a huge fan of poetry, but this year I became more mature and carried around a lot of responsibilities, which I believe led me to selecting poems that really reflected my personal life,” Akec said.
All students at Judge Memorial CHS are required to memorize at least one poem and be able to recite it to their peers. After winning the school competition, Rebecca advanced to the regionals at the Salt Lake City Public Library Marmalade Branch on Feb. 28.
“During the regional competition I remember being super-exhausted with school work, extracurricular activities, and overall lack of sleep; so the moment I entered the building I already accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to move on,” Akec said. “But upon hearing my name called as the winner, I was totally flabbergasted. Even to this day my sister and I talk about the total shock we felt when my name was called.”
Next up was the state competition held at Westminster College on March 14.
“At the state competition I got to meet the most amazing group of people ever,” Akec said. “I loved how we encouraged each other. Throughout the whole competition I had forgotten that we were technically up against each other for the title of state winner, and when we were called for placements I had a moment of realization that this was a competition. I still cannot believe that I am the Utah Poetry Out Loud winner. It seems very surreal, and I feel very honored.”
At the national finals, Akec advanced as far as the second round, finishing in the top 24.
“I am very thankful for this wonderful experience and all the people and events that led up to it because if it wasn’t for Poetry Out Loud I would not have discovered what makes me, me,” she said.
Courtesy of the Judge Memorial Bulldog Press Staff