Virginia Champion Wins Poetry Out Loud National Competition | Community Idea Stations


Virginia Champion Wins Poetry Out Loud National Competition

RICHMOND, VA, May 6, 2016 – The Community Idea Stations is proud to announce that Virginia Beach high school senior Ahkei Togun has won the 2016 Poetry Out Loud National Competition.  With confident recitations of poems by Henry Taylor, Cornelius Eady, and William Lisle Bowles, the Tallwood High School student recited his way to a $20,000 award and major bragging rights among the approximately 317,000 student-competitors nationwide who participated in the program this year.

Togun, a two-time state champion who has competed in Poetry Out Loud since his freshman year of high school, made it to the national finals after competing against other regional finalists in the Virginia competition held on March 18 at the Community Idea Stations studios in Richmond.  The student speaks passionately about his Poetry Out Loud journey stating, “The biggest thing is to be you.  It either gets you the win or the loss, but at the end of the day you were yourself.”

Alice Anne Ellis, the Poetry Out Loud coordinator at Henrico High School who worked with Ahkei during his freshman year, recalls, “I remember how delightful it was working with Ahkei during his 9th grade year at Henrico High School.  Even though it was his first experience of Poetry Out Loud, Ahkei’s talent and enthusiasm propelled him to advance to the state level as one of the youngest competitors.”

In addition to his family, Togun expressed gratitude to his teachers Ms. Alice Ellis, Mrs. Jenna Free, and Mrs. Tuckerman who have supported him in this journey.  Ahkei is headed to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York this fall where he will study acting. 

Poetry Out Loud is the nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition and is coordinated by the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.  The Virginia finals competition was sponsored by The Virginia Education Association and Virginia Commission for the Arts.  Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. Finalists were selected in a process that began with an initial field of approximately 317,000 students who participated in their school, regional and state contests en route to the national championships, held in the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University.

To view the 2016 statewide Poetry Out Loud competition produced by WCVE PBS, visit

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