SPRINGFIELD — A lot of hard work is paying off.
Next week, Southeast High School senior Mariah Brooks is heading to D.C. for a national poetry competition. For the second time, she’ll represent Illinois competing against 52-other students from around the country.
Watch Mariah recite a poem and you’d have no idea she ever struggled to have a voice.
“When I was younger, it was really hard for me to express myself verbally, but I’ve found, like I can really do that when I did poetry. It was a big game changer.”
The senior says performing was difficult at first, but she fell in love with telling the emotional stories of other artists.
“The main thing I try to do when I do poetry out loud is be able to interpret the poem so others can understand.”
That ability is what’s given her the edge to success. When she started poetry competitions at school, she blossomed.
“She wanted to do well and then she really started working and the last year, she soared.”
Over the last few years, she’s earned a long list of awards and accolades. The teen is a two-time state champion. Now, she’s headed back to the national competition.
“I’m very excited and very nervous as well.”
The teen will recite three poems in the D.C. tournament. She hopes last year’s experience will help her bring home the top prize.
“It was a bummer. It hit me really hard. I started to tear up a little on stage, but then I was thinking, ‘I’m only a junior and I made it this far and I’ve got next year.'”
With more hard work, she’s getting to take that second chance.
“She’s an excellent person to go out and represent, not only Southeast High, but the state of Illinois.”
“I feel like I’m ready this year.”
Mariah already won the state competition. She’s already committed to Boston University. She says she’d use the $20,000 prize to help pay for college.
The Poetry Out Loud tournament is April 25 – 26. More than 310,000 students compete nationwide. 53 were selected.