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Two Arcadia Charter School students bring top game to Poetry Out Loud

Anna Kochevar was Minnesota's state winner last year. Bella Callery is this year's winner.

NORTHFIELD, Minn. — Arcadia Charter School in Northfield, Minnesota usually has around 130 students enrolled.

It's a small school focused on the arts. But don't let the size of the school fool you - it's a powerhouse when it comes to Poetry Out Loud.

"Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation competition," explained Anna Kochevar. Kochevar is a senior at Arcadia. "Basically what it is, is it gives high school students a chance to find, memorize and recite poetry."

Kochevar was last year's state winner for the competition. Sitting next to Kochevar was Bella Callery, this year's state winner.

"I think that I was pretty under prepared for the first school (competition)," Callery said with a chuckle.

To put things into perspective, Poetry Out Loud is the competition that Arcadia looks forward to each year.

"Poetry Out Loud is really the one place where we at Arcadia compete," Bob Gregory-Bjorklund said. Gregory-Bjorklund is a teacher, advisor and arts coordinator at Arcadia. "So we're talking about sports and all those things, this is the one place where we compete."

Gregory-Bjorklund explained that Arcadia does have a co-op when it comes to sports with the Northfield School District. But Poetry Out Loud is where things get heated. 

Never think for once, that the lack of whistles and drills means lack of passion or fight.

"I love poetry, I've always loved poetry," Callery said. "I watch it almost every night before I go to bed."

"I think throughout elementary, I always had a lack of confidence," Kochevar said. "But through Poetry Out Loud, I felt I gained that back for myself."

From personal development to deeper connections, whatever the two girls found in poetry, they've put right back into the program. There's no doubt, they are making their Northfield school proud.

"These two bring Northfield to a national consciousness in a different way and in poetry," Gregory-Bjorklund said. "And they bring Arcadia to a greater consciousness too."

For Callery, nationals are coming up later this month on April 29. She will compete among other performers from all over the country in Washington, D.C.

"I hope I get into the top nine, but I don't know if I can do it," Callery said. When pushed, she repeated that she just wants to get into the top nine.

Regardless of the results, it's clear both Callery and Kochevar have already unearthed the true treasures that poetry has to offer. 

"A lot of poetry is a way for some people to take what they feel, that's not so positive and make it something beautiful," Callery explained. "And make it into something other people can connect to. I think it's really cool."