Anchorage student Maeva Ordaz wins national poetry competition

Anchorage high school student Maeva Ordaz won the 2015 Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. She wins a prize of $20,000 in the national contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

It was the second time Ordaz, a senior at West High School, has represented Alaska in the national championship. She won the 2014 state title and repeated that on March 11 of this year.

"Last year I didn't make the finals (in the nationals), but I resolved to do better and pick better poems," she said.

Ordaz won the final round with "Zacuanpapalotls" by Brenda Cárdenas. It was the same poem she recited in the course of winning the Alaska state title in 2014.

"For me it was a very personal poem," she said, "reflective of my heritage. And the idea of rebirth spoke to me. It made me think of how hard my parents have worked and how hard I've worked to get here."

She said she plans to use the prize money to buy laptops for herself and her sister, Azabel, "and to help my parents with the mortgage." She already has earned a full scholarship at Columbia University in New York and recently learned that she was the recipient of a Gates Millennium scholarship, which pays a student's costs through graduate school.

She has not yet decided on a major, she said, but is considering computer science.


Ordaz thanked her parents, Yolanda de la Cruz and Francisco Ordaz, and especially her sister for helping her prepare for the competition. "(Azabel's) been willing to listen to me recite the same things over and over again for hours," she said.

She also expressed thanks to her teachers, John Ruhlin and Temperance Tinker.

Finalists for Poetry Out Loud, the nation's largest youth poetry recitation competition, were selected in a process that began with an initial field of more than 365,000 students who participated in their school, regional and state contests en route to the national championships, held in the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University.

Paris Stroud of Georgia won second place and a prize of $10,000. Casey Ryan Goggin of North Carolina came in third and won $5,000.

Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham has been a reporter and editor at the ADN since 1994, mainly writing about culture, arts and Alaska history. He worked in radio for 20 years before switching to print.