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For most children, elementary poems consist of “roses are red” and an endless string of misspelled words. For sophomore Makayla Nerpel, they sparked a passion that would lead to national awards.

Nerpel’s poetic journey began with a first grade assignment, and she has been writing ever since. Additional influence came from her earlier childhood years.

“My mom used to read T.S. Eliot to me when I was really little,” Nerpel said, “I saw how happy it made her and wanted to be happy too.”

Her work extends beyond poetry, including short stories and prose in addition to writing for Allen High School’s newsmagazine, the Eagle Angle.

“[My favorite is] definitely prose. It’s much easier to express myself when I don’t have to worry about rhyme scheme or stanzas,” Nerpel said.

In early November, Nerpel attended the National High School Journalism Convention in Washington D.C., where she competed in the poetry write-off competition.  

"I had no confidence walking into my write-off. All the other people looked super serious. . .I remember just sitting there like 'what the heck am I supposed to write about?'" Nerpel said.

Her nerves proved unnecessary when her poem won Superior (the highest award given). With over 2,000 students in attendance at the convention, this was no simple feat.

Nerpel said the win came as a surprise to her.

"I don't think I'm very good, and I was kind of in shock that someone else liked something that I wrote," she said.

This has been an ongoing struggle in her writing.

"I have a tendency to compare my writing to [my friends'] and get jealous or feel inadequate," Nerpel said.

Despite inner struggle, Nerpel continues to write poetry, articles, prose and short stories, and lights the way for young writers everywhere.

"Poetry is truth to me. . .it gives me a way to let people see who I am without me having to explain everything," she said.

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