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It's a Huge Honor

It's a Huge Honor

University School of Milwaukee junior Emily Igwike ’24 was named one of five National Student Poets—chosen from thousands of applicants—and invited to read her original work at the White House this past September.

She wasn’t nervous to read her original poem “my mother prepares ofe egusi” at the White House. She wasn’t nervous to read it in front of the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, or in front of her fellow National Student Poets. Emily Igwike ’24 was nervous to read it in front of her mother—the subject of her poem. “If you’re reading a short story online or picking up a book, it’s not as close as maybe sharing it with the person you wrote it about,” Igwike said.

Emily Igwike poses for a photo alongside First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Poet Laureate Ada Limon.

From left Dr. Jill Biden, Emily Igwike ’24, and Ada Limón, 24th poet laureate of the United States

Igwike was named one of five National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work, chosen from thousands of 10th and 11th grade students throughout the country. The finalists were invited to the White House on Sept. 27, 2022 for a pinning ceremony, and to read their original work in front of Biden and invited guests.

As a National Student Poet, Igwike represents the Midwest region. Throughout the year she will serve as a literary ambassador, sharing her passion for poetry and the literary arts through service projects, workshops, and public readings. In addition, each poet will receive $5,000. In June, Igwike will read one of her poems in Carnegie Hall.

“I was so shocked and surprised when I found out I was named a National Student Poet,” said Igwike. “But I was also really happy. There are so many talented poets as part of this program, so it’s a huge honor.”

Igwike’s parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria, and she has been writing poetry since a young age. Although she hopes to pursue a career in the medical field, she plans to continue writing and practicing poetry as long as she can. “I think that poetry is such a powerful device,” she said. “I can write a poem and know exactly what I want to do with it. But somebody else is going to read it, and they’re going to see it in a completely different light. It’s like this living, breathing thing that each person can look at and interpret in a completely different way.”

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