NV Poetry Out Loud 2020

inspiring high school students through the spoken word

Celebrating 15 years of Nevada Poetry Out Loud

The 15th annual Nevada Poetry Out Loud State Finals were held Tuesday, May 26. The virtual competition featured the top 6 poets from participating Nevada counties competing for the chance to be crowned state champion. Eakjot Sekhorn representing Washoe County was crowned state champion, Anastasia Chevalier representing Storey County came in second place and Lara Cassity representing Douglas County came in third. Watch the competition.

Since September 2019, more than 4,300 Nevada high school students embraced the power of words by participating in the 2020 Nevada Poetry Out Loud Program.


2020 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Champion

Eakjot Sekhorn

2020 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Second Place

Anastasia Chevalier

2020 Nevada State Poetry Out Loud Third Place

Lara Cassity

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, the NV Energy Foundation, Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, SoSu TV, Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Sierra Arts Foundation, KUNR , Nevada Department of Education, Nevada School Districts, Cultural Alliance Nevada, and Dynagraphics Printing.

District Representatives  


Clark County

Aylin Mendoza

East Career and Technical Academy
Darlin Delgado, Principal

Hello, my name is Aylin Mendoza. I am a senior at East Career and Technical Academy, a member of the Marketing and Hospitality CTE Program, vice president of our American Red Cross Club, and have been a part of DECA since my freshman year. DECA is an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs to be college and career ready. Every year I’ve competed in DECA’s State Career Development Conference earning a variety of medals and awards. I work hard in school, take care of my younger siblings and family, and do my best to be there for my friends. I would like to thank my mother, Monica Mendoza and English teacher Daren Stewart.

Douglas County

Lara Cassity

Douglas High School
Joe Girdner, Principal

Lara Cassity is a human being with seventeen years of age and currently widely involved in many activities including marching band, choir, steel drums, winter guard, and now, poetry. In her spare time she engages in excessive reading, writing, sketching, hiking, etc. Lara has a keen mind for astrophysics, environmental sciences, and foreign languages. She loves to dance, be outdoors, and hopes that one day she can achieve several goals including a trip to space (for science reasons), piloting her own self-built plane, sailing literally anywhere via sailboat, and retiring as a park ranger with an extensive knowledge of mosses.

Elko County

Soledad Negrete

Elko High School
Tim Wickersham, Principal

Soledad Negrete is versatile. Not only does she enter literacy competitions–earning awards in the VFW speech competition, Poetry Out Loud, and the Elko County Writers’ Festival, Soledad is also a member of the Nevada state championship golf team, participates on the varsity track team, and enters the county science fair each year–earning the Committee’s Choice award junior year.  In addition, she is the President of the National Honor Society promoting academic achievement and community service projects in which she both leads and participates. Soledad Negrete is a senior in high school this year and plans to attend Boise State University. She would like to thank her parents José and Sarah Negrete, her Creative Writing teacher Kelly Moon and her Speech teacher Emily Nielson.

Lyon County

Whitney Hegstad

Yerington High School
Principal Desoto Dixon

Born on December 1, 2004 in Reno Nevada, Whitney Hegstad, has been growing up in Yerington, Nevada, a small farm town about an hour from Reno. She is a Freshman at Yerington High School and studies Music Theory at Jam Pro Music Factory in Reno Nevada. Whitney has been invited to Northern Zone Nevada Music Education Association Honor Choir for three years and has sung solos at 2 of them. In 2019 Whitney was selected and invited to the Nevada State Honor Choir in Las Vegas Nevada. As a singer-songwriter, Whitney has her first set in fall of 2019 at the the Yerington Theatre of the Arts. She also has performed the National Anthem at the Night in the Country for three years and has been invited back for the 2020 concert. Whitney also sings at all the local football and basketball games. And various fundraising events. When Whintey is not singing, she is busy on the Yerington Dance team, playing volleyball, or taking care of her dogs. Introduced to poetry by her honors English teacher, Mrs. Mueller, and she quickly took on a passion for poetry. Whitney would like to Thank Mrs. Mueller, Mrs. Aldridge, her parents Lisa and Mark, and her Instructor Anita at Jam Pro and all her family and friends for supporting her dreams and goals.

Storey County

Anastasia Chevalier

Anastasia Chevalier
Virginia City High School
ShawnMarie Chapman, Principal

Anastasia Chevalier is a rising star in both her pursuit of educational, physical, and military goals, transforming the way the young women are leaders. Effective in building alliances amongst varying groups, Anastasia improves educational literacy across her classmates through engaged, involved discussions and debates.

With a proven track record in physical fitness, Anastasia leads youth in anti-bullying and self-defense skills through her work as a Second Degree Black Belt in Jeet Kune Do, working across age groups and socio-economic stratifications. She brings broad-based expertise in leading youth-based military groups supporting personal growth strategies and delivering complex goal attainment. She 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 Kaur Sekhon was born on June 23, 2004 in the city of Tracy, California. She is currently a sophomore at Robert McQueen High School and loves every moment of it. Her favorite subjects are Chemistry, English, and Spanish. She takes school very seriously and always puts in 100 percent effort into whatever she does. In her spare time, she likes to listen to music and spend time with her family. Her love for poetry began freshman year in her English class when the Poetry Out Loud competition was first introduced to her. She didn’t get past the classroom for her recitation, but she was determined to somehow make it to the competition in her following years of high school. Eakjot would like to thank her parents, Kewal Sekhon and Narinder Sekhon, for supporting her throughout this process, her older brother Prabhjot Sekhon for helping her improve on her recitations, and her English teacher Lindsey Lavely for believing in her and making her love for poetry more intense than it was before.

2020 Nevada Poetry Out Loud Judges

Mary Bennett is an actor, a teaching artist and the Producing Artistic Director of Brüka Theatre in Reno. Her Dorothy Parker…Shivering and Sighing won Best of The San Francisco Fringe Festival, and was performed in NYC, in June of 2017. She has been named “Best Actor” in Reno News & Review ten times. Bennett organizes and artistically directs the Carson City Ghost Walk.  She has appeared on screen, most recently in Nowhere Nevada, Dear George and Three Clicks.  For the past two years she has been commissioned to create and perform solo shows with NAMI (Nellie Bly and NAMI Conversations) and at The Nevada Museum Of Art – (Anne Bingham – In her Own Words).  Mary’s training and performances include American Conservatory Theater (San Francisco), Bay Area TheaterSports, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Dell’Arte International Theatre Company, New York Stage & Film, B Street Theater, Reno Philharmonic, Reno Jazz Orchestra, Sierra Nevada Ballet, and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. She is a Kennedy Center trained teaching artist, an Arts Integration Specialist and mentor, a Theater Artist-in-Residence with Sierra Arts Foundation and a teaching artist on the Nevada Arts Council’s Artists in Schools + Communities Roster. She enjoys reading and writing poetry and has performed her own work and the work of others in schools, theaters and at community events.


Ginger Land-van Buuren is the co-founder and Executive Director of Vegas City Opera (formerly Sin City Opera) celebrating their 10-year anniversary in 2020. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA, AEA and holds a B.A.in Music from Portland State University, an advanced certificate of Opera Performance from Bel Canto Northwest and was a Portland Opera Resident Artist. In her professional operatic career Ginger performed with Palm Beach Opera, Dicapo Opera Theater, Pacific Opera, Opera In The Heights, Natchez Opera Festival, Portland Opera, Opera Astoria and the National Lyric Opera.  She resided in New York City for over 15 years performing in off-Broadway productions and tours and was well received by The New York Times and Opera News in the New York City debut of An Incomplete Education, with The Bronx Opera, in which she sang the lead role of Gontron le Comte.  Ginger can be found in numerous movies, commercials and television episodes, and starred in the award-winning short film Cold Dark Night of Brilliance, in the role of the “Angel of Mercy” in which she also performed and recorded the title track.


Rodney J. Lee is a poet and educator living and performing in Las Vegas, Nevada, for over 35 years. Former Airman, construction worker, casino employee, English teacher, and current district-level equity administrator, he is the author of three books of poetry. His latest, Along These Trails, serves as a testament to his love for Las Vegas and the greater Nevada community. Rodney is known for his wide-ranging perspectives on the extraordinary-ordinary of everyday life. His work is poetry against all the odds, by any means necessary, an expression of tough lessons and earned revelations sung in the lyric of living.


Claire McCully was born in Mariposa, CA and spent her childhood fishing and backpacking near Yosemite National Park.  She has worked as a seasonal firefighter, in public libraries, and is a professor of English at Western Nevada College.  She earned her Bachelors in English Literature at CSU Chico and earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at CSU Fresno.  Much of her time and energy is currently devoted to raising her two sons.  After trying to live as a man for the first 40 years of her life, she finally decided to become her authentic self and transition to her true gender.  As a result, she has become an advocate of transgender rights.  She has recently given a TedTalk on her transition from male to female.Claire has competed in Reno’s Literary Death Match.  Her poetry has most recently appeared in the online journal, Trampset, The Kokanee, Sandstone and Silver: An Anthology of Nevada Poets, and The Normal School literary journal.


Pan Pantoja is the Executive Artist at the Potentialist Workshop in Reno. He is currently the City of Reno’s poet laureate as well as a poet with Spoken Views and a cited author with LaRue Press.  He is a government, museum and private gallery selected painter and sculptor and has created some of the longest murals in northern Nevada. Pan is an independent film and stage producer and director and a musician in the traveling band Weapons of Mass Creation. He loves teaching and is proud to be a teaching artist on the Nevada Arts Council’s arts education roster. He is currently an artist in residence at Squaw Valley Academy.



Nancy Podewils-Baba, MSW, LCSW, is a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 45 years of clinical practice, a past adjunct professor at the UNR School of Social Work, and a lifelong lover of all forms of art. She currently serves on the Board of the Sierra Watercolor Society, where she coordinates their Art Angels Program, which takes free watercolor instruction and supplies to elementary classrooms that do not have art. She also serves on the Leadership Council of KUNR Public Radio and is a past Board Member for the Reno Little Theater, where she volunteers regularly. Nancy has successfully written grants for both Reno Little Theater and Sierra Watercolor Society. She feels ready to be an Accuracy Judge for Nevada Poetry Out Loud, because she was an English major at Cornell, as well as a first child!

2020 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.