THE ROMERO SCHOLARSHIP FOR EXCELLENCE IN SPOKEN WORD
The sixth Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word was awarded to Christina Anto, a high school senior graduating from Bronx High School for Medical Science in 2023, for her creation of a poem with themes pertaining to social justice; on the legacy of slavery in the American South. Anto was awarded $1000.
THE SUBMISSION PERIOD FOR THE 2023/2024 SCHOLARSHIP WILL OPEN IN AUGUST 2023
Do you, or a high school senior you know, write poems about:
Hunger and homelessness
Higher education and school affordability
Peace and justice
Ableism and disability rights... and more!?
Then you, or they, should apply to The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word! The scholarship winner will receive a check from David A. Romero for $1000! Free scholarship. No cost to apply.
The 7th endowment of The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word will be awarded to one high school senior for their creation of a poem with themes pertaining to social justice. The scholarship amount will be $1000. Free scholarship. No cost to apply.
Eligibility is open to all residents of the United States and its territories, regardless of legal status. Entrants must be high school seniors, currently attending a high school in the USA, or its territories, graduating in spring 2024.
Applications, poems, and letters of recommendation must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 20th, 2023. Announcement of scholarship winner on January 30th, 2024. Check will be mailed to winner by January 30th, 2024.
How to Enter
Print out the application, fill it out legibly in black ink, scan, and email to: email@example.com along with one original poem with themes pertaining to social justice, in a Word document (.doc or .docx), single spaced, in size 12, Times New Roman font.
Entries with alternative formatting, or including more than one poem will be disqualified. Length of poem must not exceed three pages. Poems exceeding three pages in length will be disqualified. Poems exceeding a page in length preferred, but not required. Please refrain from submitting prose. Stanza breaks accepted, but not required.
Document must not include the name of author for purposes of judging. Please do not submit any additional information other than your poem, including, but not limited to: student bio, artist statement, intent to win the scholarship, etc. Any documents containing the author’s name or including any additional material will be disqualified.
Including words, phrases, and lines in another language, or languages, other than English, is encouraged. However, most judges will be primary-English speakers and while it may be possible for them to translate parts of a poem to understand its intended meaning, the full literary talent and meaning(s) of a poem submitted in another language may be lost on them.
The originality of all poems will be verified. Any poems with an excess of four consecutive lines from a pre-existing poem, speech, or song lyrics will be disqualified.
Please send in your application and poem to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word.
Entry must also be followed by a letter of recommendation from a teacher or administrator at the student’s high school (recommendation letter can be the text of the email and/or attached in a separate Word document or PDF), sent to email@example.com, with the subject line: The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word. Each recommendation letter must be sent from a high school email account. Any recommendation letters sent by personal email will be disqualified.
Please Do Not Send
Do not send any photos, YouTube links, or multimedia of any kind along with your application. Applications including any of these will be disqualified. Only send your application and poem, please.
Winner and Second-Place
Winner and winner’s poem will be featured on David A. Romero’s website and social media. Winner will retain all rights to their original poem. Along with the check for $1000, winner will receive a certificate for “Winner, The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word - 2023.”
The announcement of a “second place” for this scholarship will occur if and only if the total number of valid scholarship applications exceeds twenty. If over twenty valid applications are received, a second-place winner will be selected and will receive a check for $300 and a certificate for “Second Place Winner, The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word - 2023.”
There will be no additional award levels for 2022-2023.
If over fifty valid applications are received, Romero will extend the offer to entrants to have their work published in a pocketbook collection. This pocketbook collection will be offered for sale by print on demand on Lulu.com at print and shipping cost only (Romero will add no additional fees to profit for himself).
Poems and applications will be judged by a panel of five judges. Panel will consist of judges of different races, classes, genders, sexual preferences, faiths, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. This will help to ensure that judging is as inclusive as possible and not limited to any single definition of what poetry, or social justice, is.
Judging will be conducted in a multi-step process:
1. Judgement of poems alone. Each judge will be given a selection of poems without applications. This will help to ensure the impartiality of the judges. Judges will select poems they feel combine literary talent with a deep passion for social justice.
2. Judgement of poems with applications and emails of recommendation. In the second round, poems selected from the first round will be considered in conjunction with the information provided in the applications and with the persuasiveness of the letters of recommendation.
3. In the event of a tie between applications in the eyes of the judges, David A. Romero will cast the winning vote.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How is it a scholarship for “Excellence in Spoken Word” if entries can’t include audio or video?
Spoken word poems are given life by their performers and their performances, but almost all spoken word poems begin on the page (literal, or digital), before they are ever read or memorized. It all starts with the writing. We want to be able to read what you’ve got on the page.
More importantly, reading your work, as opposed to listening to it or watching a video, keeps you and all other applicants anonymous throughout the first round of judging; thereby allowing for us to judge your poems as impartially as possible.
What are you looking for in a poem about social justice?
This will depend on the consensus of the judges, but a good place to start would be a poem that deals with, either directly, or through metaphor, themes of racism, hunger and homelessness, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, higher education and school affordability, labor exploitation, peace and justice, immigrant rights, human trafficking, ableism and disability rights, etc. Your poem can tackle one of these themes, two or more of them, as well as any others that you feel pertain to social justice.
What if I realize that I made a mistake on my application form or email?
You are welcome to re-submit your application as many times prior to November 20th, 2023 as you feel necessary to ensure that you have included all materials and followed all instructions laid out in How to Enter.
Do I need to send a transcript?
No. Sending transcripts often costs money and we don’t want you to have to spend any more money than you need to.
Can my recommendation letter be sent via traditional mail instead of email?
No. Please send via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word awarded by a nonprofit or corporation?
No. David A. Romero is an independent contractor and spoken word artist who performs at colleges and universities. All scholarship funds will be donated from his personal account and will be distributed via money order or cashier’s check.
Will there be a board I can talk to in case of complaint?
Judges will only be involved in the selection process and will not be contributing funds to the scholarship or involved in the process of sending the funds or certificates to the winner or winners. Judges will remain anonymous. David A. Romero is solely responsible for all final decisions.
All questions, comments, and concerns can be directed towards email@example.com.
Can I donate money to The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word?
David A. Romero is not accepting donations for The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word at this time.
If you would like to support Romero, you can book him for an event, or purchase some of his products in person or through his website. You are also encouraged to donate to other scholarships that currently take donations.
Where do I find the application?
You can download the application where it says, “Download application” on the page www.davidaromero.com/scholarship.
Articles highlighting recipients of The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word
- The Gazette (Imani Lige-Crenshaw, 2019)
- Hearts of Gold Podcast (Cydney Brown, 2022)
2022/2023 Press Release:
Christina Anto, a graduating high school senior at Bronx High School for Medical Science, is the winner of the sixth endowment of the Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word. Anto was awarded $1,000.
"I am brought to tears and joy. I am truly thankful for this opportunity and hope to continue writing poetry for as long as I can." Anto said, upon hearing she was chosen.
Anto's poem wowed judges with how it instantly transported the reader into the time and conditions of slavery, "My body wasn't MY body / Sold as if I had no weight, / Sold as if I wasn't a prize possession. / Chains tied upon my feet / Wishing those chains would become a gold anklet." With her poem Anto also gave hope, "But the one word I knew was "freedom." / To me it means a butterfly who finally has wings to fly / A rat with no trap. / A life with no drama. / A negroe who can live."
David Holder, Anto's ninth grade language arts teacher, spoke of his former student, "She explored nuance and extracted meaning and insight beyond her years." Holder continued, "In the Spring of 2022 Anto gave a TEDx Talk in how colorism distorts the perception of beauty and value of the individual in American society."
Anto's extracurricular and social justice activities included, but were not limited to, Black Girl Smile, STARS CGI, Christina's Helping Hand (her own tutoring company), being the President of Investment Program at her school, and volunteering with Catholic Charities.
David A. Romero commented on Anto's win, and her accomplishments, "Christina Anto is another incredible example of how poets are not idle daydreamers (as they are often portrayed in popular media), but people who are leading the charge for change in their communities!"
2021/2022 Press Release:
Cydney Brown, graduating high school senior at Abington Friends School and Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate, is the winner of the 5th endowment of The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word! Brown has been awarded $1000 for her creation of a poem, her academic achievements, and her commitment to social justice. Brown's poem "Roundtrip," which deconstructs notions of us all "being in the same boat" to call attention to issues of racism and classism, was favored by all five judges, along with her application, and letter of recommendation.
Brown is an active Girl Scout, volunteer at her church, president of Abington's Black Student Union, president of Abington's Poetry Club, and co-president of Abington's The Literary Magazine.
Brown has been published in The New York Times, Apiary, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications.
Drew Benfer, Brown's advisor, Dean, and teacher has said of the poet laureate, "In twenty-six years of teaching, Cydney's blending of a connection with people and a commitment to the material she is studying is the sincerest and most complete I have ever witnessed."
Read Cydney Brown's winning poem "Roundtrip"
Watch Cydney Brown's winning poem "Roundtrip"
Cydney Brown's website
Download Cydney Brown's album, Roundtrip
2020/2021 Press Release:
The 4th Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word was awarded to Ann Marie Butler, a high school senior graduating from Seneca High School in Seneca, SC in 2021, for her creation of the poem, "High Price Dreams," with themes pertaining to social justice; specifically income inequality and higher education. Butler was awarded $500.
"I'm so excited and grateful for this opportunity," Ann Marie said, upon hearing she had been chosen. A 4.0 grade average student, Ann Marie is a member of Seneca's National Honor society, National Beta Club, Rotary's Interact club, and is a service learner at the school library.
Ann Marie is also a varsity athlete competing in the high jump, long jump, and triple jump, and has consistently helped her mother teach elementary school kids over the years.
School librarian Angela Justus says Ann Marie volunteers because, "She knows not all children get this opportunity around the world or in her rural South Carolina community."
2019-2020 Article by California School News Report:
Edgewood High School senior Yuriko Chavez’s poetic perspective on social justice won her the 2019-20 Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word on Jan. 20.
Chavez’s poem submission “Mission First, Mission Always” was ranked No. 1 on four out of the five judges’ score cards.
“The poem is about toxic partying and assault, and how women are not portrayed as victims,” Chavez said. “I use a lot of military metaphors and how women fit in that context, such as having to check in with people and traveling in packs; there’s a procedure to everything.”
The scholarship is funded by David A. Romero, a Mexican-American spoken word artist, and is given to one high school senior in the United States each year.
“I never thought that what I wrote was ever good enough to be recognized by a competition,” Chavez said. “It’s a super surreal feeling and an honor.”
Chavez was inspired to write the poem after listening to a song about partying from the male perspective.
The prize will help fund Chavez’s pursuit of a journalism and ethnic studies degree at either Occidental College or UC Irvine.
“I’m really passionate about journalistic-style writing and I want to continue my journey and life articulating my experiences through spoken word,” Chavez said. “I sincerely thank my parents for consistently encouraging my journey through the arts,” Chavez said.
Chavez, editor in chief of Edgewood High School’s yearbook and president of the National English Honor Society, said the arts and writing provide a way to gain new perspectives and value others’ stories, unifying the community.
“I want to thank Mr. Michael, who recommended the scholarship to me in the first place, Mr. Pirraglia, who let me perform the poem, and all the teachers and staff at Edgewood High School who support arts and spoken word,” Chavez said. “It’s great to be a part of a supportive community that values the arts.”
2018-2019 Press Release:
Imani Lige-Crenshaw, graduating senior at Sierra High School, and resident of Colorado Springs, CO, is the winner of the second Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word.
“This means a lot to me.” Lige-Crenshaw said, upon hearing she had been chosen. Her counselor Tyra Little added, “Her ultimate goal is to one day be a published author.”
The scholarship was created by spoken word artist and poet David A. Romero to recognize graduating seniors for their creation of poems dealing with social justice. A panel of five judges was selected by Romero to review poems, applications, and letters of recommendation.
According to Romero, judges felt that Lige-Crenshaw’s poem “Triple Threat,” touched upon the theme of intersectionality, highlighting her three marginalized identities: Black, LGBTQIA, and female, that combine to define her, and affect how she is treated by society.
An excerpt from Lige-Crenshaw’s “Triple Threat” highlights the prejudice the self-identified gender-fluid Moorish-American woman could experience from her three marginalized identities:
I am sorry my melanin skin causes you fear on the runway.
I am sorry my feminine stature causes anxiety in a boardroom.
I am sorry my affection showcase causes you discomfort in a chapel.
With “Triple Threat” the young poet Lige-Crenshaw challenges a patriarchal, racist, and queerphobic America, but predicts:
“One day / It’ll be fine / To be Black / To be gay / To be female / In our America.”
“By standing, in her poem, with those who kneel, Lige-Crenshaw is representing Black Lives matter, she is demonstrating a fearlessness in her convictions as a gender-fluid young woman that love is love, and by stating that she has numerous family members who have served in the military, she challenges anyone to try and tell her that America isn’t for her, or for anyone who shares in any of her identities." Romero said.
Lige-Crenshaw has won second place in foreign language in the Athenian Poetry Competition, is the co-editor of her school newspaper, and has been active in the Spectrum LGBTQ Safe Space as well as in Poetry Club and Theatre at Sierra High School.
High school counselor Tyra Little said that for the young poet, aside from being exclusively a political platform, poetry is also a means of self-love, “Imani’s passion is her poetry. She has been writing for years. Poetry has helped Imani cope with her depression and anxiety issues as well as provided her with an outlet to express herself.”
Imani Lige-Crenshaw hopes to attend Babson College, Denver University, or the University of North Carolina in the fall.
Romero looks forward to continuing to help more gifted young writers with the scholarship in the future.
Follow Imani Lige @imanipoetry
2017-2018 Press Release:
Sonia Arreguin, graduating senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, and resident of Central-Alameda, Los Angeles, is the winner of the inaugural Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word.
“As an aspiring writer, nothing fills me with more joy than the knowledge of someone finding my work to be good.” Arreguin said, upon hearing she had been chosen.
The scholarship was created by spoken word artist and poet David A. Romero to recognize graduating seniors for their creation of poems dealing with social justice. A panel of five judges were selected by Romero to review poems, applications, and letters of recommendation.
According to Romero, judges felt that Arreguin’s poem “No Thank You,” perfectly captured the spirit of the women’s rights #MeToo Movement by calling out the phenomenon of “catcalling” and other forms of harassment that women experience from men daily.
An except from Arreguin’s “No Thank You” illustrates the unease that harassment causes, and the desire to protect oneself it engenders:
I don't need you to make me feel beautiful
A stranger's hug and kiss on the cheek does not result in thank you
It results in a please let go, and a clench of the pepper spray I do not own
Clenched, a fist, I will not dare throw."
In 2014, nonprofit Stop Street Harassment conducted a survey in USA, finding 65% of women had experienced street harassment: 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual.
Arreguin's "No Thank You" tackles these issues through poetry.
"Sonia has a clear and powerful voice and is saying something that society needs to hear right now; that women are tired of being harassed, and that they don't need anyone but themselves to tell themselves that they are beautiful." Romero said.
Arreguin attended the Women's March in Los Angeles and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C., was a member of both Roosevelt's swim, and mock trial, teams, participated in the Eastside Stories Conference at Roosevelt High, tutored at the LA Public Library, and attended workshops and other events with teen poetry program Get Lit – Words Ignite; among many other extracurricular activities.
Arreguin's AP Literature and Composition teacher, Jeff Matsumura, was effusive with praise for his student.
"In the twenty-four years that I have been in education, rarely have I been privileged to teach a student of such academic ability, social awareness, and positive personality. As a first-generation high school student and a future first generation college student, Sonia challenges herself to face any obstacle that she faces." Matsumra said.
College and Career Advisor at Roosevelt, Raul Mata, who spread the word of the scholarship to teachers at the high school to get their students to apply, was glad to hear the news of Arreguin's win. "Sonia is a great recipient!" Mata said.
Sonia Arreguin hopes to attend UC Berkeley, USC, or Northwestern in the fall.
Romero says he looks forward to continuing the scholarship in the future.