Arizonan among 5 high schoolers chosen as National Student Poets

PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ) -- Five teenagers have been selected National Student Poets, a program that will have them serve as ambassadors at everything from literary readings to community service.

The poets include Alexandra Contreras-Montesano, from Burlington, Vermont, and Heather Laurel Jensen of Mesa, Arizona. National Student Poets, founded in 2011, is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Each poet will receive a $5,000 "academic award."

Other students cited Wednesday were Darius Atefat-Peckham of Interlochen, Michigan; Ariana Smith of Las Vegas; and Daniel Blokh of Birmingham, Alabama. Applicants were 10th and 11th graders who had received top honors in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

"Throughout the year, the poets will serve as literary ambassadors and will share their passion for poetry and the literary arts with their communities and at libraries and museums throughout their regions," the program's coordinators announced Wednesday. "This will be done through service projects, workshops, and public readings."

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will help preside over an Aug. 30 ceremony with the poets at the Library of Congress. The students, chosen from thousands of applicants, also will meet privately with U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.

"The National Student Poets are representatives of language at its best: seeking discovery, forging new modes of meaning, singing the particular music of this very moment," Smith said in a statement. "They remind us how much poetry continues to matter, and how much we need what poetry fosters, which is care, belief, courage and empathy."

Valley student selected has history of entering poetry competitions

For Heather Jensen, who is going into her junior year at Mesa's Red Mountain High School, she has been entering poetry competitions since the 7th grade.

"The thing about poetry is its so succinct and so connective and emotional," said Jensen. "It's something that everyone can relate to because in a lot of instances, you're using a different speaker or a different perspective, so it's removing yourself from the situation almost, while still putting yourself in there. It's almost like processing or a therapy for yourself. It's almost the way I handle situations, rather than go through them."

Jensen hopes to inspire other kids to write, and get creative. From this point, she gets to choose a year-long service project, and she plans to work with underprivileged kids in Arizona.