November 2015 Student Spotlight - Serenity Stokes, Lincoln North Star High School, Omaha

Serenity Stokes

Serenity Stokes may have grown up under difficult circumstances, but that certainly hasn't affected her commitment to her future. As a high school senior, she has already become one of the best young poets in Nebraska. Her achievements in poetry and supporting the growth of slam poetry led the Nebraskans for Arts to select Serenity their November Student Spotlight winner.

Serenity, a senior at Lincoln North Star High School, has been a force to be reckoned with in Slam Poetry, a competition at which poets read or recite their original work.  She won the Spirit of the Slam Award at the 2015 Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains festival and was part of the Lincoln North Star’s State Championship Team in Slam Poetry.  In 2013, she received first place in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Poetry Slam, where she competed against other high school writers and college writers.

“Few student writers I have worked with in nearly fifteen years of teaching are as aware and connected to sound and image as Serenity so beautifully is,” said her nominator, Stacey Waite, Lincoln North Star Poetry Slam Team Coach and Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Serenity is a risk-taking writer, one who walks the borders of the lines between sentimentality and power, between truth and deception, between the beautiful and the sublime. She is a builder of images and is able to move her reader through a variety of narratives while making the transitions feel seemingly effortless.”

In addition to her success on the stage and as one of the best poets of her age in the state, Serenity takes her passion for slam poetry to the youth community. She visits middle schools and elementary schools to introduce slam poetry to younger kids. In team meetings where poets share their work with one another, Serenity is celebrated for being full of great suggestions and ideas that help her teammates improve.

For Serenity, participating in slam poetry has helped her with her leadership, diligence and ability to make connections between what she learns in a classroom and what she observes out in the world.  "It makes everything a new opportunity, a new friend, a new way to help; if I show them a part of me, they show a part of themselves back"

Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains is a youth poetry festival conducted by the Nebraska Writers Collective and now one of the biggest events of its kind. The festival consists of a series of workshops conducted by accomplished poets who serve as teaching artists and coaches to assist students in creating and perfecting original poetry compositions and practicing performing individual and group pieces. The event culminates in a friendly tournament, with pieces performed in front of live audiences. For more details, check the official website at