Teen born in refugee camp is Oregon poetry champ

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland high school student wants to represent more than just the state of Oregon at a national poetry competition. 

Belise Nishimwe, a sophomore at St. Mary’s Academy, is Oregon’s 2019 Poetry Out Loud champion. 

She competed against 8 other regional finalists at the contest on Saturday in Salem and will move on to the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C. next month. 

Watch: Belise Nishimwe performs, is named 2019 Poetry Out Loud champion

In addition to spoken poetry, Belise is passionate about social justice and law and how it pertains to immigrants. 

As a girl who spent the first 5 years of her life in a refugee camp in Tanzania before her family moved to the U.S., Nishimwe hopes to be a voice for immigrants and refugees around the world. 

“This is everyone’s victory,” said Belise. “I want to represent refugees and immigrants in a good light. I wanted to do Poetry Out Loud because when I was younger I wanted that representation that I rarely ever saw. I wanted to see other immigrants like me participate in a variety of activities and succeed so that I could know that I could achieve that too.”

The national Poetry Out Loud competition will take place April 29 through May 1. 

Poetry Out Loud is a contest that encourages young people to learn more about American poetry. The free program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Oregon Arts Commission

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