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Walter Payton’s Stella Binion Honored as National Student Poet

by Caroline Bernet

Stella Binion steps on stage, to deliver a poem, but she is not standing in Chicago. She is in Washington D.C. in front of First Lady Michelle Obama. She is nervous, but at the same time, she knows that the message of her poem deserves to be heard, especially by the First Lady.

Much of the Payton community already knows her – Stella Binion is involved in Payton Advisory Leaders (PALs), Youth Wellness Team, Payton Organization of Women, and the Payton Art and Literature Magazine. But while most Payton students were sitting through their first math class of the year and trying to find their English class in the new building, Stella was shaking hands with Michelle Obama, accepting a national award acknowledging her poetry accomplishments. So, how did this Payton senior get national recognition? It all started with her love of poetry and desire to perform.

Stella knew that she loved poetry and decided to start writing slam poems and performing, and her sophomore year, she auditioned and got a role on a Rebirth slam team. From there she had to be committed to practices and performances on a regular basis always perfecting her writing as well as her performing skills. But in recent news, she submitted one of her poems to a scholastic competition and it won national recognition. She submitted to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, where two of her pieces were reviewed and given Silver Awards. Next, through the same program she submitted a longer application that included more of her as a person and how poetry has influenced her. She was then selected to be a 2016 National Student Poet, one of five, representing the Midwest region.

Beyond Stella’s poetry career, she is an active member of the Payton community. She has helped plan the Gender Equality for Teens conference since freshman year, has contributed her strong personality and leadership skills in PALS, and has worked hard to establish relationships with teachers and students alike within Payton. It’s clear that she is leaving a great impression on our school, and Paw Print decided to ask one of the freshman in her advisory about his first impression of her.

“In all honesty, when I first saw her, she looked like someone who was there for you, and could be there to lend a helping hand,” said Liam Dillon ‘20.

The freshmen she’s been a PAL for have really looked up to her as a role model as well as for support managing Payton’s environment.

“Stella encourages others to step out of their comfort zones and engage,” said Lindsay Opie ‘17, also a PAL. “She’s great at bringing people together. As a peer and classmate, she brings in multiple perspectives in the discussions which really helps people have better discussion.”

Her peers see that she is always a part of the conversation and that through her personality she is able to push people to talk about pressing issues and really get meaningful interactions throughout Payton.

“The way she calls anyone’s attention is so smooth, it’s like we listen up because we know she’s about to share something meaningful, and she’s going to do so while making us feel so comfortable,” said Alexis Roman ‘17, a fellow peer and lead PAL, on his relationship with Stella on a day-to-day basis. “I have mad respect for Stella for that. I’m privileged to be able to work with her as a leader, but I’m truly blessed to have her as a friend.”

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