Allan Monga - Headshot 2018

Allan Monga

Allan Monga, a junior at Deering High School in Portland, Maine, traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Poetry Out Loud contest in the spring of 2018. But Monga, who fled violence in his home country of Zambia, was initially barred from the national final because of his immigration status: He's an asylum seeker and does not yet have U.S. citizenship.

Poetry Out Loud’s official rules require permanent residence, so Monga filed a lawsuit against The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. A judge granted a motion allowing him to compete, and he went on to represent the state of Maine in the competition. Monga says fighting to compete in Poetry Out Loud was important to him — and others. “I am not the only kid who’s an immigrant. There is a huge body of kids from all over the world who are definitely in my situation,” Monga says. “So, I wanted to create a way that kind of opened the door for everyone.” His plight has been covered by a number of national news agencies, including NPR.