Being a National Student Poet is Not All That Makes Kinsale Hueston Unique

How unique is Kinsale Hueston? A senior in high school, the Corona del Mar 17-year-old is the daughter of the lead prosecutor in the U.S. government’s successful case against Enron. Her mother, who grew up on a Navajo reservation in Utah, where her father was a tribal leader, became the first American Indian alumna to receive Dartmouth College’s Young Alumni Award.

Oh, there is also this about Kinsale: She was just named one of five National Student Poets for 2017, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets.

While her classmates toil the day away at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, Hueston will spend Aug. 31 in Washington, D.C., for her pinning ceremony at the Library of Congress, a private workshop with 21st U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and a public reading at the National Book Festival, which will kick off her year of service as a National Student Poet.

Hueston’s poetry often focuses on modern issues facing her Navajo Nation tribe, including violence against women, the loss of native languages and racial prejudice. (Click here for links to her works and a video.) She and her mother Mabelle Hueston have made many trips over the years to Navajo land near the Utah-Arizona border.

To become a National Student Poet, Hueston first had to receive a national medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a nearly century-old program that recognizes the country’s creative teens. The National Student Poets Program is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, which administers the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

As the 2017 National Student Poet representing the western U.S., Hueston is to receive a $5,000 academic award. So will the other four honorees: Annie Castillo, 16, of Falls Church, Virginia; Ben Lee, 16, of Edina, Minnesota; Juliet Lubwama, 17, of Downingtown, Pennsylvania; and Camila Sanmiguel, 17, of Laredo, Texas.

Their submissions, like all others considered for the National Student Poets Program, were judged by a jury composed of: Jennifer Benka, poet and executive director of the Academy of American Poets; Richard Blanco, U.S. Inaugural Poet; Ann Burg, award-winning poet and fiction writer; Kyle Dargan, poet and recipient of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Juan Felipe Herrera, 21st U.S. Poet Laureate; Edward Hirsch, poet and president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; Rickey Laurentiis, poet and recipient of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; Robin Coste Lewis, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry; Marilyn Nelson, award-winning poet and translator; and Alice Quinn, executive director of the Poetry Society of America.

Incidentally, the Orange County Register profiled Kinsale Hueston’s amazing family in 2006, when the Enron case was heading for trial. At that time, she was 5 and her oldest sister Tara was an 18-year-old freshman at Princeton. The story detailed the challenges of Kinsale’s father John Hueston living in Texas hotels while representing the United States against Enron Corp.’s former chief executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Before leading the government prosecution, Hueston had run the Santa Ana branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, supervising 24 federal prosecutors. Among his other successful prosecutions was the bribery conviction of former Santa Ana City Councilman Ted Moreno.

The Register also revealed how Mabelle Hueston became a de facto single parent to Kinsale, Tara, another daughter, then-4-year-old Shea, and a son, Ryan, then-13. Mabelle, whose husband also attended Dartmouth, by then had a good grip on guiding strong minded young people with often divergent agendas. Here was the justification given for her Dartmouth Young Alumni Award honor in 1986:

As co-president of the Interracial Concerns Committee, Hueston increased communication between the different racial and ethnic groups on campus and worked on numerous initiatives to promote cross-cultural understanding.

… Hueston’s support of diversity, service, and community at Dartmouth has continued to be impactful long after graduation—in her work as a member of the Alumni Council, the Tucker Foundation’s Board of Visitors, the board of the Native American Alumni Association, and as chair of the Native American Visiting Committee, in addition to her award-winning work with the Dartmouth Club of Orange County.

This past spring break, Mabelle Hueston led 13 members of the St. Margaret’s community on a seven-day trip to Navajo Mountain, where participants were immersed in Navajo culture. To prepare everyone for the trip, she had led presentations at the private prep school about the history, culture, expectations and even etiquette unique to the Navajo people. Many called the experience life changing.

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