HSE Junior Earns 2019 National Student Poet Honors
Salma Mohammad, a junior at Hamilton Southeastern High School, recently won the 2019 National Student Poet contest, a prestigious award given to just a handful of students.
She was chosen from among thousands of award-winning poets to serve for a year as a National Student Poet, one of the nation’s highest honors for youth poets presenting original work.
“It feels amazing,” Mohammad says. “When I first heard the news, I had to make sure I was understanding everything correctly, and I really couldn’t believe I had won. This contest means everything to me, because I’ve always kind of suppressed my love for poetry. I always viewed it as a hobby or something that can always be put off. I never prioritized it, even though it was something I enjoyed doing.”
Mohammad noted that after winning the contest, she felt as though her poetry wasn’t just a hobby anymore.
“I thought it was something that I should better prioritize, and use as a tool to change the world,” she says.
Mohammad has been writing poetry since she was a young child.
“The first time I wrote a poem was in the third grade, when a girl on the playground decided to do a twirl, and banged her head into my nose,” she says.
Mohammad was one of just five students in the nation to be appointed a National Student Poet.
“They pick one student from each region (of the country),” Mohammad says.
Mohammad noted that the National Students Poets Program (NSPP) is a partnership of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which presents the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The awards program, which is nearly 100, is known for its recognition and celebration of the country’s most creative teens.
Mohammad won the contest for a poem she entered called “White Noise.”
“My poem outlines the lack of attention given by Americans to the state of Palestine,” Mohammad says. “My mother is Palestinian, and so I’ve prioritized educating myself on the politics of what is going on.”
Mohammad added that, “Although it is about Palestine, the theme of the poem still reaches to the many other countries in the world who face humanitarian crisis. For example, the crisis in Sudan.”
Mohammad traveled to Washington D.C. in July to be officially recognized for her work and begin her year of service as a literary ambassador. It includes promoting creativity and self-expression at museums, schools, libraries, conferences and workshops.
The Poets’ 2018 Appointment Events were hosted in cooperation with the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and held in conjunction with The National Book Festival.
“The winners perform their poems to the senators and representative of Indiana, as well as the states of the other four winners,” Mohammad says.
Mohammad credits Karin Foster, the HSE librarian, for telling her to enter the contest.
“Without her, I wouldn’t even have a chance at this amazing opportunity,” Mohammad says. “I want to give another thanks to all my English teachers who have supported my writing, despite (my) being an unfocused student.”