NV Poetry Out Loud 2021

inspiring high school students through the spoken word

Celebrating 16 years of Nevada Poetry Out Loud

Last year, as the state began to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to cancel the in-person state competition and pivot to a virtual competition. As the months passed, it was apparent that we would have to do the same this year. Although our participation numbers are not the same as in years past, dedicated students and teachers moved the program forward resulting in the presentation of poems by five state semi-finalists. It’s been a year of uncertainty and because of that we are grateful for all the students and teachers that found the time and desire to turn to poetry and make it a part of their lives. 

The 16th annual Nevada Poetry Out Loud State Finals were held Thursday, March 11. Eakjot Sekhorn representing Washoe County was crowned state champion, Anastasia Chevalier representing Storey County came in second place and Allyson Adamsen representing Clark County came in third.

2021 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Champion

Eakjot Sekhon

2021 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Second Place


2021 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Third Place


Focusing on our rich literary heritage and contemporary life through memorization and performance of classic and contemporary poetry, Nevada Poetry Out Loud is a program of the Nevada Arts Council, presented in partnership with National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, SoSu TV, Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Nevada Department of Education, and Nevada School Districts.

District Representatives  

Clark County

Allyson Adamsen

Doral Academy Red Rock
Danielle McDowell, Principal

Allyson Adamsen was born and raised in Las Vegas and loves living there. She is currently a sophomore at Doral Academy Red Rock, where she consistently works hard to achieve her goals both inside and outside of school. Allyson’s favorite subjects are English and theatre, and when she is not reading, she is playing volleyball, rollerblading, or writing poetry. She first found her love for poetry after reading Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes when she was younger, and her appreciation of the art form took off from there. Soon after, she discovered spoken word, and her first original poems won the Clark County Spark! Poetry Writing and Recitation Competition in 2019. Allyson would like to thank her theatre teacher, Kate St-Pierre, for giving her confidence, support, and showing her how powerful poetry could be, as well as her parents, April and Arlan Adamsen, for always supporting her as she works towards her goals.

Elko County

Ava Nielson

Elko High School
Tim Wickersham, Principal

Ava Nielson is a senior at Elko High School. This will be her fourth year participating in Poetry Out Loud. She is an avid writer and reader in both prose and poetry. She has dabbled in the arts from painting, to playing the trumpet, and acting. Reciting poetry has been something Ava has grown up with, along with reciting lines from Shakespeare. Being able to participate in this competition has been amazing, and she is glad she can do it her final year. She would like to thank her mother, Emily Nielson, her grandmother, Karen Wilson, her Creative Writing teacher, Kelly Moon, and her English teacher, Meggan Voth. 

Lyon County

Harely Guerrero

Yerington High School
Desoto Dixon, Principal

Harely Guerrero is a Senior at Yerington High School where she is involved in multiple organizations and sports. In the past four years of high school she has been part of her school’s Dance, Soccer, Basketball, and Track & Field teams. Harely has also been a part of Link Crew, National Honor Society, Interact, FCA, HOSA, and The Mason Valley Fire Department Explorers program. Although she is very introverted she enjoys public speaking and poetry. Harely dreams of one day becoming a Biomedical Engineer and can’t wait to begin her journey next year at the University of Nevada Reno. In her spare time, Harely Guerrero is most likely drawing, watching a movie, or having a good bowl of soup. She would like to thank her mother, Ma. Guadalupe Hernandez and her teacher, Mrs. Aldridge.

Storey County

Anastasia Chevalier

Anastasia Chevalier
Virginia City High School
Shawn-Marie Lumos, Principal

Anastasia Chevalier is a rising star pursuing educational, physical, and military goals, transforming the way young women are leaders. Effective in building alliances amongst varying groups, Anastasia strives for academic excellence through engagement, involved discussion, and debates. With a proven track record in physical fitness, Anastasia is a Second-Degree Black Belt in Jeet Kune Do, a first degree in Taekwondo, and practices Jujitsu Kickboxing working with youth to build confidence and eliminating bullying. She brings broad-based expertise in leading youth-based military groups as a U.S. Naval Sea Cadet, and she is studying the Russian language and culture. Anastasia would like to thank her parents, Kevin and Ambre Chevalier, her English Honors teacher Karl Watts and her friends for ceaselessly listening to her recite her poems.

Washoe County

Eakjot Sekhon   

Robert McQueen High School
Amy Marable, Principal

Eakjot Sekhon is 16 years old, and a junior at McQueen High School. This is her second year participating in the Poetry Out Loud competition and it is just as thrilling as the first time she entered last year! Some things about her are that she loves listening to music, watching movies, reading books, roller skating, and spending time with friends and family. She likes to keep herself busy. Eakjot is always looking for new hobbies to pick up or activities to do. For this year’s competition, she truly wishes everyone the best and that whoever will go on to Nationals will certainly make Nevada proud! She would like to thank her parents, Kewal and Narinder Sekhon and her English teachers, Aimee Kelly and Lindsey Lavely.

2021 Nevada Poetry Out Loud Judges

China Hudson   

Ms. China is an active member of the Las Vegas community. She enriches the lives of youth and families through culture, character, theatre, spirit and leadership workshops. Her experience as a writer, director, actress, Spoken Word artist, African Dancer, and facilitator combined with her love for people forms an explosive package that creates positive change. Ms. China has established youth cultural and empowerment programs for the City of Las Vegas, Clark County School District, Las Vegas Urban League and Clark County Parks and Recreation. As an African dance instructor and a member of Olabisi African Dance & Drum Ensemble, she is committed to maintaining African culture and tradition through drumming and dancing. She has been a teaching artist for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Nevada Arts Council and Rainbow Dreams Academy in Las Vegas. Ms. China has written, directed, and performed in fourteen original productions showcasing social, racial and political issues. Her theatrical performances include: For Colored Girls, Vagina Monologues, Amen Corner, The Bluest Eye, The Color Purple-Las Vegas, and Dreamgirls-Las Vegas. She is currently the Clubhouse Director for the Mary and Sam Boyd Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada. 

Heather Lang-Cassera   

Heather Lang-Cassera lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she serves as Clark County Poet Laureate (2019- 2021) and was named 2017 “Best Local Writer or Poet” by the readers of Nevada Public Radio’s Desert Companion. Heather holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a Graduate Certificate in Literary Translation. She serves as an Editor for Tolsun Books and World Literature Editor for The Literary Review. Her poems have been published by many literary journals, such as Lumina, North American Review, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere, and her chapbook, I was the girl with the moon-shaped face, was published by Zeitgeist Press. Her forthcoming book of poems, Gathering Broken Light, was acquired by Unsolicited Press and will be published this fall. At Nevada State College, Heather serves as a Lecturer of First Year Experience where she teaches College Success, Composition, and Creative Writing and serves as a Faculty Advisor for both their literary journal, 300 Days of Sun, and their student creative writing club, Blue Sage Writer’s Guild. www.heatherlang.cassera.net 

Andy Lott  

Growing up, Andy wanted to be a dolphin trainer. But when he figured out engaging with audiences and mc-ing the Sea World show wasn’t actually the job, he decided to pursue a career in the performing arts instead. Andy’s internal monologue is that of a creative thinker, problem-solver, and collaborator at the highest level. His passion for humans and helping people tell their stories means he is adept at seeing multiple perspectives at once and making space for the power of possibility to work its theatrical magic. A graduate of the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, he went on to earn his BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. He toured nationally with “The Wizard of Oz,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and was the equity guest artist for The Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s 2017 production of “Peter Pan,” playing the title role. Andy previously taught and directed inside the nationally awarded Rainbow Company Youth Theatre, the City of Las Vegas company he spent his youth growing and developing his artistic point-of-view. A public high school arts educator for four years, Andy has a particular understanding of the triumphs and challenges of the southern Nevada arts education landscape; he believes strongly in the value of collaboration to develop meaningful creative learning opportunities for all students. Andy continues to work with individuals and groups to help them find themselves in their stories. 


Nancy McLelland   

Nancy McLelland is an Elko County native with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Nevada Reno and an M.A. in Language Arts and Literature from the University of New Mexico. McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for twenty-three years at Mendocino College in Ukiah, California. She has conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College, and the Great Basin Writing Project. She divides her time between Carson City and Tuscarora, where she has conducted poetry and memoir writing retreats–Tuscarora Writers Retreats. A lifetime learner in the writer’s craft, McLelland has enjoyed attending writing workshops, most notably a poetry workshop at the Key West Literary Conference with former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. McLelland has presented her “Poems from Tuscarora” both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, “Borderlands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon,” is in the anthology, Cowboy Poetry Matters. She has published her poetry in various literary journals as well as on her blog, Writing from Space—Memoir, Essays and Poetry from the Wide-Open Spaces of Northeastern Nevada. www.writingfromspace.com; also accessible through her Facebook page Tuscarora Writers Retreats. 


Gailmarie Pahmeier   

Gailmarie Pahmeier has been a Nevadan for over 35 years. She teaches creative writing and contemporary literature courses at the University of Nevada, where she has been honored with the Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award and the University Distinguished Teacher Award. She is also on the faculty of the low residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada University. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has garnered several awards and has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of three Artists Fellowships from the Nevada Arts Council, including the prestigious Major Project Fellowship. She is the author of The House on Breakaheart Road, The Rural Lives of Nice Girls, and Of Bone, Of Ash, Of Ordinary Saints (WSC Press, 2020), in addition to three chapbooks, one of which, Shake It and It Snows, won the Coal Hill Chapbook Award from Autumn House Press. She has received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the state of Nevada, has served the City of Reno as its first Poet Laureate, has been inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, and she has been recognized by Nevada Humanities as an Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities.

2021 Nevada Poetry Out Sponsors

Nevada Arts Council Staff Assistance

Maryjane Dorofachuk, Arts Learning Specialist & POL State Coordinator, at mdorofachuk@nevadaculture.org or call 702.486.3738.