Voices, the Chapel Hill Chorus, recently announced Natalie Sherman-Jollis as the winner of its “American Dreams” high school poetry competition.
Sherman-Jollis recently completed her sophomore year at East Chapel Hill High School. This fall she will be attending the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics. In addition to writing poetry, she enjoys competitive sailing, playing soccer and alto saxophone in a school jazz band as well as running and cooking. Her winning poem is aptly called “American Dream”.
“I wanted to write a poem that embraced all parts of the ‘American Dream,’ good and bad,” she said in a news release. “To me the ‘American Dream’ is the glue that holds our very diverse country together, a stereotype of what it means to be American. All of us go about achieving this ideal in different ways, some taking it for granted, others hopeful, all at times frustrated and discouraged. But, with all its imperfections, at least some part of all of us still believes that the dream is real. And I think that is what sets Americans apart.”
The poetry competition was open to high school age poets living in Orange, Chatham and Durham counties. Judges included poet Debra Kaufman and Voices member and former UNC English instructor John Paul Middlesworth.
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“Natalie was among several contestants who turned a critical eye on the notion of the American Dream. Her work stands out for its broad scope and well developed poetic expression. Natalie’s poem works by way of a collage of images, snapshots of America, some showing our hopes, some exposing our conflicts,” Middlesworth said in the release.
According to Sherman-Jollis, “Winning a contest about the “American Dream” means a lot to me because I am the grandchild of immigrants. My grandfather was welcomed to America after surviving World War II as a Jew in Germany, my grandmother was the first of a family of 10 to come here, seeking opportunities outside of the Scottish coal-mining projects of her childhood.
“Like most Americans, my heritage is very mixed – on the other side of the family I am both a third and fourth generation American – in all part Norwegian, part Irish, part Scottish, and part German. The ‘American Dream’ is why I am here.”