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Actress Alfre Woodard (left) congratulates 2017 National Student Poet Juliet Lubwama, of Downingtown, Pa., on her inaugural reading at the Library of Congress on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Washington. (Photo by David Hathcox)

Juliet Lubwama, a national student poet, will be joining the University of Pennsylvania's Class of 2022.  

Lubwama, a senior at Downingtown STEM Academy in Downingtown, Pa., said she chose Penn over several other schools, including Harvard University and Yale University. 

Last year, the Scholastic Awards recognized Lubwama as a 2017 Northeast National Student Poet. According to Scholastic Awards Public Relations Director Cathy Lasiewicz, after being selected out of tens of thousands of poetry submissions, top writers go through rigorous adjudication by prize-winning writers, such as former United States poet laureates. For each different geographical region of the U.S., only five poets are honored as representatives.

Lubwama said she chose Penn for the opportunity to continue writing poetry. 

“What stood out for me with Penn’s literature scene was the Kelly Writers House … which would be perfect for someone like me who loves writing poetry," Lubwama said. “I knew that the Kelly Writers House would be somewhere that, if I’m accepted to Penn, would welcome me with open arms.”

Lubwama said she interacted regularly with Kelly Writers House Associate Director for Recruitment Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who maintained contact with Lubwama prior to her acceptance. Josselyn did not respond to request for comment.

Her father Robert Lubwama, a pharmaceutical researcher, described moving from Uganda and starting a family in the U.S. He said he noticed Lubwama’s writing ability at a young age and spoke proudly about how she’s developed artistically since. 

Regarding Penn, he said, “We are really happy for her to get into such a good college.”

Juliet Lubwama speaking at the 2017 National Student Poets Ceremony at the Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Washington. //Photo by David Hathcox

Lubwama also said Penn was a good fit for her professional ambitions.

"I also plan to be in pre-med, so the fact that Penn is more interdisciplinary made it perfect for someone like me who might want to go into one profession but really enjoys writing, so Penn was just perfect for that," Lubwama said.  

Lubwama elaborated on her passion for poetry, saying, “I love using poetry, both written and recited, to be able to invoke change in other people, to change people’s minds. I think poetry just has an extraordinary transforming power in that way.”

Some of Lubwama's poetry addresses social issues of gun control, immigration, and the Black Lives Matter movement. “I believe that poetry is very effective at spreading awareness for these issues because poetry can be digested emotionally," she said.  

“Juliet is like a stealth poet. She comes across as very quiet and very reserved, but when she takes the podium, she is so astute and so strong, so committed to her voice and to her history and to the moment she’s having as a writer,” said Virginia McEnerney, the executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization associated with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. “She’s kind of a quiet storm.”

While many incoming Penn students are spending this week enjoying Quaker Days, Lubwama will be preparing for a poetry workshop she is running in Delaware, one of various states she’ll be performing in during this month.