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On February 24th, 2024, 10 students from Menaul School attended the 34th annual English Expo of New Mexico, hosted at Atrisco Heritage High School. English Expo, a non-profit educational organization sponsoring English Language Arts activities in New Mexico, draws hundreds of students annually from middle and high schools across the state. Each student gets the opportunity to participate in two out of twenty-four contests, spanning writing skills, speaking, and artistic expression.

This was Menaul School’s first year participating in English Expo, and our students were excited for the challenge. It presented an opportunity to witness our English curriculum in action, gauging student performance firsthand while also providing a valuable experience for students to engage with the competitive activities. Menaul students showcased their talents across a variety of competitions, including poetry, prose writing, social notes, personal narrative, vocabulary, listening, team dialogue writing, and traditional storytelling. According to Mr. Kahlieh Bernstein, “students had a great time witnessing the enthusiasm of other students in New Mexico for English and Language Arts. They were thrilled to participate in poetry slams, spelling competitions, and recite Shakespearean monologues.”

Students proudly display their hard-earned medals.
Demetri Leyba receiving an award for Listening in the Junior Division.

The results were nothing short of remarkable. Demetri Leyba, a seventh grader, took 1st place (New Mexico State Champion) in Listening for the Junior Division, as well as 3rd in Personal Narrative. Gabriella Encomienda, a junior, earned 1st place and the title of New Mexico State Champion in Traditional Storytelling for the Senior Division. Seelush Chhetri, another junior, secured 1st place and the title of New Mexico State Champion in Poetry Recitation. Remi Bellemare, a senior, received 2nd place in both Shakespearean Monologue and Prose Writing. Ericka DeFazio, a sophomore, took 2nd place in Vocabulary and 5th place for Poetry. Athena Rahman earned 2nd place in Personal Narrative, and Janaye Foote claimed 4th place in the same category.

Reflecting on their experiences, students shared valuable insights. Davian Leyba, a freshman at Menaul, found English Expo to be a welcoming and enjoyable experience for newcomers. Participating in poetry and social notes, he appreciated the competitive atmosphere of the event. Davian looks forward to attending again next year and aims to begin practicing his poem earlier, and is also considering participating in the short story fantasy writing competition.

“My favorite part of English Expo was the whole competition itself. It was a very good environment and welcoming to people who are new.”

Davian Leyba

Janaye Foote, a freshman at Menaul, was inspired by the prompts at English Expo. She competed in both poetry and personal narrative contests, where she achieved 4th place in personal narrative. Looking ahead to next year, Janaye intends to brainstorm ideas based on her experiences, carefully selecting words to convey her thoughts more effectively.

Gabriella Encomienda, a junior at Menaul, said that she gained a better understanding of time management during writing scenarios. Engaging in both traditional storytelling and team dialogue writing, she found herself challenged to write effectively and quickly. Gabriella credits her AP English Language class for preparing her for storytelling, as its seminar style helped her build confidence in solo speaking. Looking ahead, she intends to pace herself better while writing to allow for thorough review and editing. Additionally, she plans to further develop her public speaking skills by practicing in front of an audience.

“My AP English Language class helped me prepare for traditional storytelling. For storytelling, I was by myself and had to talk, and AP English prepared me for that due to its seminar style.”

Gabriella Encomienda

After being able to gain a better understanding of how the competition is structured, Menaul School is looking forward to preparing and improving our results next year. As a faculty advisor for English Expo, Mr. Kahlieh Bernstein is excited for “building an even stronger team next year and participating and excelling in a wider range of competitions.” Our English program has demonstrated its effectiveness, evident in our students’ outstanding performance as first-time competitors. We are so proud of all the students who participated and extend our congratulations to those that placed, including our esteemed New Mexico State Champions.

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