Last weekend Nathan Cummings, 18, a senior at Mercer Island High School, was in Washington D.C. attending the Library of Congress National Book Festival, where he was officially appointed as a National Student Poet and Literary Ambassador by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the nation’s highest honor for young poets. His fellow National Student Poets are Sojourner Ahebee, Michaela Coplen, Aline Dolinh, and Louis Lafair.
As a signature initiative of the President’s Committee in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the program was created in recognition of the positive results seen in students when they are engaged in the arts. Cummings class was selected by an esteemed panel of jurors from a pool of National Medal winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
While in Washington, D.C., Cummings and his fellow National Student Poets and their families toured the White House and met with First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chairman of the President’s Committee. “What these young people learn through reading and writing poetry doesn’t just spark their imagination, it also broadens their horizons, both today and for the rest of their lives,” said Obama. “Our National Student Poets are seeing, hearing, experiencing and shaping a vision of the world around them, and they are motivating others to do the same. With this award, we celebrate their passion, dedication and creativity.”
An athlete by nature and self-proclaimed trivia geek, Cummings says he often gets the inspiration for his award winning poetry while running cross-country track. Some of his award winning poetry is available to read online. Beyond his local writing community, he is an active participant in online literary journals such as Poly Polyphony H.S., an international student-run literary magazine where he is an editor. He plans to study English in college.
Cummings says that he is grateful to grow up on Mercer Island, “a great community for the arts.” As part of his duties as a Literary Ambassador to 11 Western states, he hopes to encourage local poets through new initiatives, perhaps in partnership with the Mercer Island library or his school.
He also encourages other Mercer Island students to talk to their teachers about opportunities to showcase their writing in student publications and contests, including the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. More information and submission guidelines for the contest this year are available online.