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For Immediate Release

Nine Student Finalists Compete for $50,000 at  2011 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

Award-winning actress Kerry Washington hosts finals; live webcast available
April 29th, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — Nine high school students vie for the title of Poetry Out Loud National Champion and a $20,000 award at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC tonight. The nine students advanced from yesterday’s semifinals, at which 53 students from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, competed. More than 365,000 high school students participated in Poetry Out Loud contests in classrooms nationwide this year. A total of $50,000 will be awarded Friday evening to the finalists and their schools.

The nine finalists are:

Alabama State Champion Youssef Biaz (Auburn, AL)
Colorado State Champion Samuel Opoku (Northglenn, CO)
Illinois State Champion Morgan Joyce Williams (Springfield, IL)
Kentucky State Champion Victoria DiMartile (Fort Mitchell, KY)
Maryland State Champion Kari Barclay (Bethesda, MD)
Massachusetts State Champion Michaela DeAndra Murray (Dorchester, MA)
Nevada State Champion Emily Orellana (Reno, NV)
Pennsylvania State Champion DeVonna Daisy Smith (Reading, PA)
South Dakota State Champion Melissa Johnston (Brandon, SD)

During tonight’s competition, all nine finalists will compete in two rounds of recitation, having selected classic and contemporary poems by poets ranging from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The top three contestants will advance to recite a third poem, and the student with the highest scores from all three rounds will be named Poetry Out Loud National Champion. 

Featured speakers at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals are award-winning actress and President’s Committee on the Arts Member Kerry Washington; NEA Deputy Chairman Patrice Walker Powell; and Poetry Foundation President John Barr. National Finals guest judges are poets Valerie Martínez, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Brian Turner, actress and author Amber Tamblyn, playwright/actress/director Aditi Brennan Kapil, and Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn.

The Poetry Out Loud National Finals take place Friday, April 29, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at the historic Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW, Washington, DC. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. The finals can be viewed remotely through a one-time-only live webcast.

Photo and interview opportunities with finalists are offered before the event from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.; finalists and judges are also available onstage after the event, 9:15 to 9:45 p.m.

Video crews covering the Friday night National Finals must arrive by 6:45 p.m. to reserve a space.

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POLnews. For more information on the event and webcast, visit www.arts.gov or call 202.682.5001. For more information on the program, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.

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Poetry Out Loud Partnerships
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are the culmination of many partners' efforts. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and awards for both the state and national finals. State arts agencies have implemented the program in high schools nationwide and organized state competitions, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Schools interested in registering for next year’s Poetry Out Loud should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Poetry Out Loud Educational Materials
The NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by participating schools. These materials include print and online poetry anthologies containing more than 650 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, video footage of performances from the National Finals, and audio tracks about the art of recitation. Schools are welcome to download these resources at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Contests and Awards
Using a pyramid structure, Poetry Out Loud starts with classroom and schoolwide activities and contests between September 2010 and February 2011. State contests were held by mid-March; the 53 champions of contests in every state, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC compete at the national finals. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Awards include $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud national champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. Each state-level final has awarded $1,000 in cash to the champion, runner-up, and their schools. In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 to state- and national-level winners.

Fast facts about Poetry Out Loud 2010–2011

  • Total participating students in the 20102011 school year: 365,855
  • Total participating schools in the 20102011 school year: 2,255
  • Total participating teachers in the 20102011 school year: 5,020
  • Total number of students nationwide who have competed in Poetry Out Loud over the past six years: 1.2 million
  • States with the highest number of participating students in 2011: California, Florida, and Washington
  • Participating State Schools for the Deaf or Deaf and Blind: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Oregon
  • Most frequently performed—and now retired—poem from the Poetry Out Loud anthology: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at www.arts.gov. 

 About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation supports the richness and diversity of the region’s arts resources and promotes wider access to the art and artists of the region, nation, and world. To learn more about MAAF and its programs and services, visit www.midatlanticarts.org.


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