Final Contest for the Title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion on April 30, 2014

High school students compete for $20,000 award

WHAT: Nine student finalists representing high schools from Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Washington State, and West Virginia match their skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry in a contest for the title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion and a $20,000 award. Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation.  

WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday, April 30, 7:00 pm - 9:15 pm ET, Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Not in DC?  Poetry fans nationwide can take part in the event via a live, one-time-only webcast at

WHO: Speakers and participants: Neda Ulaby, Arts and Culture Reporter for NPR; Patrice Walker Powell, NEA Deputy Chairman for Programs and Partnerships; and Stephen Young, Poetry Foundation.  Guest judges: poets Ming Di and Valerie Martínez; novelist Tope Folarin; Poets House Director Lee Briccetti; and actor/performer Chris Sarandon. The featured performer is Meklit.

2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists:

  • Idaho State Champion Savina Magdalena Barini, Xavier Charter School, Twin Falls, Idaho
  • Louisiana State Champion BreAnna LaVerne Smith, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Missouri State Champion Thomas K. Fields, St. Louis University High School, St. Louis, Missouri
  • New Jersey State Champion Natasha Simone Vargas, Lawrence High School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
  • Ohio State Champion Lake Wilburn, Centennial High School, Columbus, Ohio
  • Tennessee State Champion Anita Norman, Arlington High School, Arlington, Tennessee
  • Texas State Champion Kristina L. Watkins, Henry Ford Academy: Alameda School for Art + Design, San Antonio, Texas
  • Washington State Champion Elizabeth Mo, Kamiakin High School, Richland, Washington
  • West Virginia State Champion Austin Gage, Wheeling Park High School, Moundsville, West Virginia

MEDIA INTERVIEWS AND COVERAGE: Pre-event interviews with the nine National Finalists take place from 6:00 - 6:30 pm. Video crews covering the Wednesday night National Finals must arrive by 6:45 pm to reserve a space. Post-event photos and interviews opportunities with finalists, judges, and speakers take place onstage, 9:15 - 9:45 pm.

CONTACT: Media must RSVP to Sally Gifford, NEA Public Affairs, 202-682-5606 (office) / 202-536-7162 (mobile).

OTHER: The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. The event will offer ASL interpretation. For more information call 202-682-5606 or visit

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud is on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, #POL14.

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Sally Gifford

NEA Public Affairs
202-682-5570 (office)/202-536-7162 (mobile)