The Importance of Trying: Rhéa Ming’s Story of Success


Georgia Hensley, Author

Public speaking is no small feat, but for Rhea Ming it seems to come quite naturally. The Spring Mills High School graduate has made West Virginia history after winning first place in last year’s state-wide Poetry Out Loud competition. 

Ming was first introduced to Poetry Out Loud—a national poetry recitation competition— during her junior year at Spring Mills. The contest encourages student development of public speaking skills, builds self-confidence, and spreads the admiration for poetry amongst its participants. 

“It was part of my English class curriculum,” Ming stated. Student representatives, referred to as tributes, were selected from their classes to recite poems in front of the school for the first official round of competition. 

“My interest was peaked immediately.” she continued. Ming went on to receive a third-place title during her first year competing in the school-wide competition. 

“When it was brought up in my AP English class during senior year, I knew I wanted to try again,” Ming stated. With the help of her classmates, Ming selected her poems for her second competition, being sure to choose poems that reflect an aspect of her own life.

“Even if you have to make the most crazy connection between the poetry and your personal life, that’s going to be so invaluable. The audience is going to be more empathetic to your performance,” Ming explained.

Rhéa Ming smiles alongside two of Spring Mills High School’s English teachers, Mrs. Karla Hilliard (left) and Mrs. Jessica Salfia (right), after winning first place in the school-wide Poetry Out Loud competition.

While meticulous poem selection and hours of practice may have impacted her success in the competition, credit must also be attributed to Ming’s extensive history of performance and public speaking. Truly a renaissance woman, Ming’s open mind and venturesome spirit has led her to always try new things from learning viola to joining FFA— Future Farmers of America.

After some scheduling conflicts leading into her sophomore year, Ming met with her guidance counselor to fill in an empty first period slot.

“My guidance counselor just went through a list of available classes for that first period, and she got to ‘Introduction to Agriculture’,” Ming began.” Out of the list she gave me, that one sounded most interesting. So I was like alright, I’ll give that a shot.”

“That was a very unique experience for me,” said Ming, unaware that she had just committed to a class heavily associated with the FFA organization.

As part of the class curriculum, students were to write down, memorize, and recite the FFA creed, a code of conduct for the organization’s members. 

“My advisor, Mr. Butts, took an investment in me and saw that I really had potential,” Ming stated. He suggested that Ming try her hand at the regional creed-speaking competition. With a natural curiosity, Ming jumped at the opportunity. She went on to win first place at both the regional and state competition, earning her a spot as an officer in the Spring Mills FFA chapter. 

With a natural flare for performance, Ming is now studying for her master’s degree music performance at West Virginia University. 

“I just want to travel the world and play beautiful music in front of people and just share that part of myself with an audience,” emphasized Ming.

With an ambition and passion nothing short of inspiring, Ming hopes to share her story and inspire students to step outside of their comfort zones. For the 2021 Poetry Out Loud participants, she has one final piece of advice:

“Just have fun,” laughed Ming. “For me, I didn’t realize how much I’d love poetry until I started, and now it’s something that I will forever be grateful for. Just be in the moment, and you will find something to love.”


To read Rhea’s competition poems, click the links below:

“For the Dogs Who Barked at Me on the Sidewalks in Connecticut” by Hanif Abdurraqib

“A Thank-You Note” by Michael Ryan

“Sonnet 29: When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”  by William Shakespeare