(WILLISBURG, Ky.) – Ariana McCalla, a North Washington Middle School student who will be entering 8th grade in August, competed against approximately 30 students from across the country this month in the poetry category of the National Beta Convention held in Oklahoma, where she was named a National Beta Finalist and placed ninth in the nation. McCalla had previously entered a poem about former President George H.W. Bush’s death in the local Beta Club competition and was the only student chosen to move forward to state level, where she competed against 75-100 students using a poem prompt and placed second. During the national competition, students were given an hour to complete a poem based on a given prompt. McCalla says she used all but three minutes of her time.

McCalla at the recent National Beta Convention in Oklahoma. (Photo submitted)

“Before the competition started, I felt extremely nervous,” says McCalla. “I was able to get past that with the help of my dad and his crazy country music. When I was finally able to comprehend what I had just accomplished, I was over the moon excited! Since I am very passionate about writing and plan to continue with it throughout my career and life, I was very glad that I was able to get past this obstacle in my journey and hope to stay in Beta throughout college.”

McCalla says she will strive to compete at the next National Beta Convention, which will be held in Fort Worth, Texas in 2020. “I hope to make my family, school and friends proud, and also have the courage to take on other harder and more important writing competitions in the future. The National Beta Convention was definitely a new experience for me. Coming from our small town, everything is much bigger. I knew I had to try even harder than I did when I was [competing] locally or at state because this was the next level of talent. When I found out I had made it in the top ten, at first, I didn’t know what to think except, ‘Is this really happening?’ And yes, it was very real, and I couldn’t believe I had made it that far.”

“Ariana is an exemplary student and person,” says Jennifer Johnson, who teaches 7th grade reading and language arts at NWMS. “She was so excited to attend the National Beta Convention. At the end of the year, she practiced writing poetry and brought me examples to review and critique. She consistently looks for ways to improve her craft. Earlier this year, she and a peer wrote an article about our annual book project. Her dedication to good writing has been a joy for me to observe and encourage.”

Ariana is the daughter of Ashley and Josh McCalla.