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Tonight: Colorado champ Sam Opoku to vie in Poetry Out Loud national finals

Thornton High School senior Samuel Opoku, a two-time Colorado Poetry Out Loud champion, has made it to the final round in Washington, D.C. -- again -- and will be aiming for bardic glory as the national recitation contest concludes tonight.

And not just glory. The winner of the event, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, walks away with a $20,000 cash prize.

A throwback in a world of slam-offs and open mic nights, Poetry Out Loud requires participants to recite classic poems from memory, one of which has to be from the nineteenth-century or earlier. The idea is to encourage students and their audience to reconnect with the beauty of the language and the power of the spoken word.

Last year Opoku, a masterful performer who's been coached by slam champion Ken Arkind as well as Thornton High teacher Michael Kilduff, emerged victorious in the state competition and placed fourth in the nationals. He took state again this year and yesterday was named one of nine finalists -- three each from states in the West, Midwest and East.

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The finals will be streaming live here tonight, starting at 5 p.m. Mountain Time. Opoku will be performing works by Naomi Shihab Nye, Bob Hicock and, if he makes the final cut of three, George Herbert.

In the pic below, that's Sam's teacher Michael Kilduff on the left, next to Sam's father, sister Esther, Sam and Kilduff's daughter, Alice, a Denver School of the Arts student who also placed highly in the state contest.

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