From being a reserved, insecure new girl to becoming an inspiration to all students and teachers, senior Natasha Mukuka stepped out of her comfort zone on Feb. 11 as she participated in the Poetry Out Loud competition and won first place in Regionals.
Mukuka moved to the United States from Zambia in 2012, attending a school much different than this one. Adjusting to the new school environment was difficult for her, as she was too shy to approach anyone and unaware of how to start a conversation. “I worried that people would laugh at my accent. The only person that I had a good relationship with after I moved was my eighth grade English teacher. To me she was more than a teacher, she was my best friend,” Mukuka said.
Not having any friends to talk to throughout middle school made Mukuka realize that people don’t appreciate what they have in life until it’s gone, which is when she began to write poems. Her purpose of writing poems was to send a message of hope, courage and acceptance throughout the community; to inspire others to not take life for granted. “Writing made it easy for me to express how I felt, it made the words that I thought could be so hard to say out loud easier because I could say whatever I wanted to say within stanzas,” Mukuka said.
Mukuka’s transition to high school was difficult as she had no friends along the way, but she always told herself to keep striving to do better and never give up. She gained confidence during her junior year and began to learn more about herself as she participated in a Latin dance club and in theatre, making some friends along the way.
A theatre assignment required students to bring a poem into class and Mukuka decided to bring in an original about insecurity. When she recited it, her peers did not believe that she wrote it, as one further suggested that she should participate in the Poetry Out Loud competition. Mukuka agreed to participating although she was nervous, and pushed herself to memorize inspirational poems to recite at the competition. “Step by step I began to gain the confidence to speak in front of everyone…I only wanted to think about the positives and not the negatives,” Mukuka said.
Mukuka worked with English teacher Zachary Hardy throughout the competition. Her confidence and hard work resulted in her winning first place in three different rounds up until the state finals where she did not move forward in the competition. “I enjoyed working with her because she was so dedicated. I enjoyed reading all of her work and she did an awesome job.,” Hardy said.
Mukuka was passionate throughout her journey, and is proud to have represented her school and county. “To everyone just believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Keep working hard and always tell yourself you can do it and you will if you believe,” she said.