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First Lady Honors New Class of Student Poets for Bravery

First lady Michelle Obama speaks in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 8, 2015, during an event to honor the 2015 class of the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the nation’s highest honor for youth poets.

Michelle Obama honored a new class of National Student Poets for their bravery to be vulnerable and sharing their deepest thoughts.

The first lady hosted a White House event Thursday for the five teens — some sporting bowties and dark blazers — as they read their original works of poetry in the Blue Room.

"It takes a level of bravery to be that vulnerable, to stand up in this room — this historic place with these lights and cameras — and share something so personal and precious," Obama said. "But that is also the beauty of poetry: how it helps you take all those complex and confusing thoughts and emotions and put them into words."

Leadership role

As literary ambassadors for the next year, each student will host workshops and lead service projects in their communities to spread the art of poetry.

The program is the nation's highest honor for youth poets. Obama said there were more than 20,000 submissions this year for the fourth class of poets.

The 2015 National Student Poets are 16-year-old Chasity Hale of Miami; 16-year-old De'John Hardges of Cleveland; 15-year-old Eileen Huang of Lincroft, New Jersey; 17-year-old Anna Lance of Anchorage, Alaska; and 17-year-old David Xiang of Little Rock, Arkansas.

The first lady said she was encouraged by her parents as a child to write and participate in the arts, including musical performances, church plays and piano lessons. She was even a singing fairy.

"As a kid, when I was feeling anxious or bored or lonely, I would often sit down and just write and write and write, and I would get lost in that writing," Obama said. "It helped me on so many levels to be able to pour out feelings and frustrations on the paper."

The first lady said she gained emotional and academic benefits from writing, because she improved as a writer and critical thinker in the classroom.

Obama added that arts education programs are "absolute necessities" rather than luxuries — because students who participate in the arts statistically do better in school.