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SSHS, Dandan students top poetry competition

SAIPAN Southern High School senior Jeremiah Fernandez and Dandan Middle School seventh grader Oceana Teigita were the top winners in the 15th Annual Valentine Sengebau Poetry Competition at the Visitor Center in American Memorial Parkon Tuesday night.

Fernandez also won last year’s senior division recital competition. This year, his wining poem was titled “Listen.”

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Jeremiah Fernandez
Oceana Teigita

In the senior division, participants submitted original poems. The scoring had two parts: content was 60 percent and recital was 40 percent, Humanities Council program officer Farah Younis said.

 Tina Sablan, Samuel Crawford and Tiberius Mocanu judged the poems submitted by the contestants a few days before the competition.

The judges for the recital competition were Robert Hunter, Laila Y. Boyer, Kimberly Bunts-Anderson, Adam Walsh, Catherine Perry and 2018 Miss Marianas Celine Concepcion Cabrera.

This year, Fernandez competed against 10 high school students

“I am counting it as a blessing,” Fernandez said when asked about his two consecutive wins. “My main focus is to get my message across: how our islands’ culture and how our people should react to changes that come with economic development. I really enjoyed the fact that I got to share my message tonight.”

Keyla Flores of Tinian Junior High School won second place with her poem, “Where I Belong,” while third place went to Manuel Quitugua of Tinian Junior High School, whose entry was titled “Indecisive.”

In the junior division recital, Dandan Middle School’s Oceana Teigita won first place. She recited Valentine N. Sengebau’s “Searching.”

When asked why she chose the poem, Teigita said: “It is sad how people leave this island and forget where they came from. To me it is really important that they never forget where they come from. Their roots and culture are very important.”

The seventh grader said she had one week to prepare for the competition.

Dandan Middle School vice principal Reo Arriola said it was the third win for the school.  “Jonathan Wolf and Juliet Inocencio won in the 13th and 14th  competitions. Our teachers work very hard with our students to make sure they are prepared for these events,” he said.

Before the competition, Arriola said they held a school contest “to make sure that we chose ‘the best of the best.’ We had Rep. Ed Propst and other people from the community to sit as judges. We trained our students and we prepared them for the competition. So far, we have been successful and happy with the results.”

Dandan Middle School principal Lyn Mendiola noted that Oceana Teigita and her twin sister Issa are very dedicated to their craft.

“They were both in the [National Junior Speech and Debate Association] regional competition for the past two years. It is so obvious that they are comfortable reciting poems in front of the audience, but that takes a lot of courage and practice. It is not something that every kid can do, so we are very proud of our students — it seems that they get better every year.”

Jill Anne Mallari of Mount Carmel School placed second for reciting Valentine N. Sengebau’s “Man and Life.”

Third prize went to Tinian Junior High School’s Ryan Nuera for reciting Sengebau’s “The Plague.”

The other participants in the junior division were Kamille Razon, Francisco Sablan Middle School; Edgardo Palma Jr., Hopwood Middle School; Jane Mozunder, Hopwood Middle School; Issa Teigita, Dandan Middle School; Elaiza Camacho, Rita Inos Junior/Senior High School; Jaselle Manglona, RIJHS; Tammy Fernandez, RIJHS; Danny King, RIJHS; Jii Lee, Saipan Southern High School; and  Tiana Torres, Saipan Southern High School.

The other participants in the senior division: Jennylyn Candia, RIJHS; Jeni Castales, RIJHS;   Ivany Manglona, RIJHS; Klowee Fujihara, RIJHS; Huynh Anhkiet, Kagman High School; Kevin Kukkun, Marianas High School; Reica Ramirez, Mount Carmel School; and Reasyl Gerard Solis, Mount Carmel School.