Gilsrud heading to first state championship

Emily Gilsrud, center, was named the 2019 Poetry Out Loud champion for North Dakota. She will go on to represent the state in a national competition in Washington, D.C. Gilsrud is pictured with, left, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Rebecca Engelmann and Kim Konikow, executive director of the North Dakota Council on the Arts.

Emily Gilsrud is going to Washington, D.C.

A senior at Wahpeton High School, the 17-year-old has competed in and won the school’s annual Poetry Out Loud competitions since 2016. On Monday, Feb. 25 in Bismarck, Gilsrud won her first state competition.

“It didn’t feel real when I won. It still doesn’t feel real that I’m going to D.C. and will perform there,” Gilsrud said.

Representing North Dakota, Gilsrud will participate in the national Poetry Out Loud. It will be held Tuesday, April 30-Wednesday, May 1 in Washington, D.C.

“It’s something that I’ll remember forever as one of my biggest accomplishments in school,” Gilsrud continued. “I’m so excited to go there.”

For coming in first place for North Dakota, Gilsrud won a trophy, medallion, $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. For participating, she also received a $25 bookstore gift card, t-shirt, swag bag and certificate of participation.

Wahpeton High School is also receiving a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books and the honor of displaying the Poetry Out Loud Traveling Trophy.

“I think it’s just awesome that they have this,” said Gilsrud about the benefits to her school.

Principal Ned Clooten, Wahpeton High School, was unavailable for comment.

A total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends will be awarded at the national competition, the North Dakota Council on the Arts stated.

“I’m looking forward to being able to relax even more in D.C.,” Gilsrud said. “I’m happy to be going there.”

Gilsrud recited and performed three poems in Bismarck: “Quite Frankly” by Mark Halliday; “Megan Married Herself” by Caroline Bird; and “Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

“My favorite part was getting to make people laugh, which I was able to do with ‘Megan Married.’ Once I did that, I could relax more,” Gilsrud recalled.

North Dakota’s top three champions included a pair of students from Bismarck. Christian Walth, Bismarck High School, came in second. Maria Kalb, St. Mary’s Central High School, came in third.

Poetry Out Loud is provided in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and the North Dakota Council on the Arts.

“(We encourage) the mastery of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic competition to high schools across the country,” the council stated.

More than 400 classic and contemporary poems are available to participating students. To learn more, visit

Wahpeton students are ‘Choice Ready’

Wahpeton High School received an additional honor earlier in February. It is in the top 10 percent of all state public high schools in graduating students who are:

• essential skills ready

• post-secondary ready

• choice ready

• workforce ready

• military ready

“This is a particular honor considering this distinction is based on the first year of data for a new statewide initiative,” said North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler.

Wahpeton High School is also the only North Dakota high school to be in the top 10 percent in all five categories, Baesler continued.

“I am confident your high school will continue to increase the number and percent of students graduating Choice Ready in the coming years,” Baesler added. “I congratulate you on this achievement and wish you a rewarding school year.”

Choice Ready is designed to measure whether or not North Dakota high schools prepare students to be ready for success upon graduation. Data was collected for the 2017-18 school year.

“All students will graduate choice ready with the knowledge, skills and disposition to be successful,” is the mission of both Choice Ready and the Department of Public Instruction.


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