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Whitemyer selected county winner at Poetry Out Loud
Parker Whitemyer, a sophomore at Oakdale High School, was the Stanislaus County winner of the Poetry Out Loud competition and advanced to the state level event in Sacramento. Photo Contributed

What started as a simple attempt for some English extra credit proved to be a bit more for Oakdale High School sophomore Parker Whitemyer.

The teen traveled to Sacramento earlier this spring to compete at the state level of Poetry Out Loud competition.

The OHS sophomore shared his initial participation for that extra credit earned him a second place in the local top ten, advancing him on to the county level. There, as the overall winner for Stanislaus County, he advanced to the state competition.

Poetry Out Loud is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, administered statewide, encouraging high school students. The student participants choose from a list of poems to memorize and perform during the competition.

“This was just something I decided to try. I wasn’t super into it, before,” Whitemyer shared of Poetry Out Loud. “I was shocked because I was just originally doing it for some English extra credit.”

At the campus level they perform one poem from the list, adding an additional selection once advancing to the county event.

Whitemyer’s two choices of poetry to recite were “All Hallows’ Eve,” by Dorothea Tanning and “On the Death of Anne Bronte,” by Charlotte Bronte.

“I really liked the message of the second one,” the sophomore said of the Bronte poem. “It was more about losing a loved one and connecting with people after death. Death was also kind of a release for them because they were no longer in pain.”

The Hallows piece he described as a more “eerie” type of reading.

“It kind of left a different type of mood that I knew would resonate a little bit more with the judges,” he shared.

And that it did.

With some theater in his past as an elementary and junior high school student, Whitemyer shared he used that experience to his benefit.

“I definitely used a lot of the stuff I learned when I was a kid to have an upper hand against my opponents,” he said. “I was shocked when I actually won the county competition. That was a huge surprise to me.”

Leaving Oakdale and traveling to Sacramento with over 50 other students from throughout California was an experience unto itself for the OHS student.

“I was definitely intimidated,” Whitemyer said of the state competition. “I was nervous, but I was pretty excited.”

Though he didn’t win at the state level, Whitemyer said it was a good experience but he has no plans of competing in poetry in the future. That being said, he offered some tips for fellow students interested in participating in future events.

His advice is to really think about the meaning, what the poems mean, the theme and the mood it brings and how it will resonate with the judges.

For additional information on the Poetry Out Loud program, visit