On April 23, 2018, Shakira Cross took off from Columbia, Missouri, for Washington, D.C., to embark on the national finals of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.
As Missouri state champion, Ms. Cross vied for the title of national champion with the 52 other state and territorial champions. She won her Missouri championship at the state finals in Jefferson City on March 7. She rose to this top spot from more than 4,000 other Missouri high school students who competed in a pyramid structure of contests starting at the classroom level, then school-wide, then regional. A 17-year-old senior at Hickman High School, Ms. Cross was the champion of the Missouri Central Region. Her persistence had paid off: she was also the Central Region’s champion in 2016.
As state champion, Ms. Cross received $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the finals for herself and an adult chaperone. Hickman High School received $500 for the purchase of poetry books. The first Missouri runner-up was 18-year-old Ann Truka, a senior at Parkway West High School in Ballwin. She received $100, with $200 for her school.
The national finals included the Welcome Banquet on April 23, three rounds of semi-finals on April 24, and the Congressional Breakfast and final round on April 25.
Ms. Cross took to Washington the three poems with which she won the Missouri championship: Poem for Haruko by June Jordan, The Ocean by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and There are Birds Here by Jamaal May.
Watch the videos of the 2018 Missouri State Finals
Introductions and Round 1 – Shakira Cross performs at 27:46, Poem for Haruko by June Jordan
Round 2 – Shakira Cross, 1:26, The Ocean by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Round 3 and Awards – Shakira Cross, 00:00, There are Birds Here by Jamaal May