NEWS: Nine Student Finalists Compete for $50,000 at 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

Finals judges include the PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown, radio host Garrison Keillor, Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, and poets Marilyn Chin and Major Jackson

Nine high school students vie for the title of Poetry Out Loud National Champion and a $20,000 award at the Harman Center for the Arts, 610 F Street NW 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. Some 365,000 high school students participated in Poetry Out Loud contests in classrooms nationwide this year. A total of $50,000 will be awarded Tuesday evening to the finalists and their schools.

The nine finalists are:

  • Colorado State Champion Samuel Opoku (Thornton High School, Thornton, CO)
  • Iowa State Champion Gwen Morrison (Marshalltown High School, Marshalltown, IA)
  • Mississippi State Champion Kristen Dupard (Ridgeland High School, Ridgeland, MS) [Announced today as the competition’s winner.]
  • Nebraska State Champion Russell Heitman (Thayer Central Community Schools, Hebron, NE)
  • North Carolina State Champion Jessica Kariisa (Raleigh Charter High School, Raleigh, NC)
  • Pennsylvania State Champion Daphnee R. McMaster (Reading High School, Reading, PA)
  • Utah State Champion MarKaye Hassan (Logan High School, Logan, UT)
  • Vermont State Champion Claude Mumbere (Burlington High School, Burlington, VT)
  • Washington State Champion Langston Ward (Mead High School, Spokane, WA)

During tonight’s competition, all nine finalists will compete in two rounds of recitation, presenting classic and contemporary poems by poets ranging from Alfred, Lord Tennyson to Toi Derricotte. 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 producing artistic director of the Adventure Theatre, Michael J. Bobbitt; NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman; and Poetry Foundation President John Barr. National Finals guest judges are poets Marilyn Chin and Major Jackson, senior correspondent and regular co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour Jeffrey Brown, radio host Garrison Keillor, and executive director of the Poetry Society of America Alice Quinn.

The Poetry Out Loud National Finals take place Tuesday, May 15, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at the Harman Center for the Arts, 610 F 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.

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