High school students in the Sunnyside school district can submit their writing in a poetry competition that starts April 20. 

Teen poets in the Sunnyside Unified School District could have their work published on #ThisIsTucson and win a prize in the district foundation's first ever poetry competition.

Kerri Lopez-Howell, who is executive director of the Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation and also a poet, organized the contest to celebrate national poetry month and provide an opportunity for diverse voices to be published. The foundation supports the educators and students in the district by helping fund resources and programs to further educational excellence.

The contest is open to all students in ninth through 12th grade who attend Sunnyside district high schools. 

"These students will be able to say 'I have a piece published' and it just gives them such a leg up into entering the writing world," Lopez-Howell says "It's so empowering and to give that to our students so that they're empowered to continue writing and try to get published, and build their resume, that's a powerful gift to give somebody."

Poetry has been Lopez-Howell's creative outlet for several years, but especially now during the pandemic and she wondered if students were also expressing themselves this way.

"I'm in the Tucson Public Voices Fellowship and I was telling my editors the only thing I can write right now is poetry, because everything feels so heavy that I just keep reverting back to poetry," Lopez-Howell says. "So I was like maybe our students who like to write are writing poetry." 

There is no set topic for the competition so students have free range to write about whatever is on their mind. 

"People are thinking about their exes, people are thinking about their family dynamics, there's just so many thoughts and emotions and I didn't want to put a topic on it for that reason," Lopez-Howell says. "You just don't know what you want to be writing about at this moment or be creating as a creative person, so I'm excited to see what the students come up with." 

The contest starts April 20 and submissions will be accepted until midnight on April 27.

Writers can submit two poems for judging. Poems can be emailed to info@sunnysidefoundation.org

The contest will be judged by Nicole Dahl, a Tucson poet and creative director of Hotel McCoy, Lopez-Howell and a #ThisIsTucson staffer. 

Three winners will have their poems published on #ThisIsTucson and win $100 to use to further their writing. 

Learn more on the SUSD Foundation's Facebook page

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