Hope Stratman, 17, has a way with other people's words.
Stratman, a senior at Skutt Catholic High School, finished third in the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night.
She took home a $5,000 prize.
About 300,000 students competed nationwide, beginning at the classroom level. Winners advanced to the schoolwide competition, then to the state competition and ultimately to the national finals.
Janae Claxton of South Carolina was crowned national champion. Nicholas Amador of Hawaii took second.
Poetry Out Loud is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and state arts agencies.
It encourages students to explore classic and contemporary poetry through memorization and performance.
Judges scored performers on everything from their understanding of the poems to their voice, accuracy and dramatic effect.
In the finals, Stratman earned her way into the top three by reciting "At Last the New Arriving" by Gabrielle Calvocoressi and "The Season of Phantasmal Peace" by Derek Walcott.
Her final recitation was "To Solitude" by Alice Cary.
She said she most likely will attend college at Emory University in Atlanta but possibly St. Louis University.
She plans to study human health or health sciences and become a physician assistant.
Stratman said she loves language, especially when it's used to express something in a beautiful and concise way and leave an impact.
"I love poetry because I feel like it's able to capture emotion and thought in a really poignant and beautiful way," she said.
Poetry is an art form like visual arts and music, she said.
"It can be an outlet for self-expression, a way to connect to another person," she said.
Selection of poems is important for the contest, she said. Everyone picks poems they connect to, so they have a base understanding, she said.
"And then from there, it's kind of just sitting down with it and looking at the lines and the different metaphors and everything and analyzing everything to understand the poet's meaning behind it," she said.
She credited her coach Sherri Hoye for helping with that.
Fans back home in the Skutt community were cheering her on online. Her school shared the Internet link for the livestreaming broadcast.
Stratman said you won’t catch her reciting poetry in a full lunch room at Skutt.
“I do not like performing for people when I don’t have to,” she said. “No one really sees me perform besides my coach and a lot of walls in various places until the school competitions or regionals or state.”
Her favorite poet is Anis Mojgani.
Stratman got a plug in for Nebraska during the competition at George Washington University.
Event host Elizabeth Acevedo asked Stratman what a visitor should experience in Nebraska.
Stratman said people should, of course, visit the sights, like the Henry Doorly Zoo.
But she said she enjoys the "corny puns" of her state.
"One thing that I want them to experience is all of the corn puns because they make me so happy" she said.
There are lots of them in a corn and beef state, Stratman said.
"I didn't know that," Avecedo said.
To which Stratman responded, "There's a lot of them, but if you have an ear for them ... "
The audience laughed and applauded.