Watch the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals on May 27, 2021

Nine High School Students Compete for $20,000 Prize
Photos of nine students in a grid with text: Who will be the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion?

Washington, DC— Who will be named the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Champion and receive a $20,000 prize? Out of 55 state and jurisdictional champions who competed in the national semifinals, nine high school students are advancing to the Poetry Out Loud national finals, which will be webcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host an evening of recitations by the top nine finalists, with live interviews with the students and the announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. 

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists are:

  • Alabama Champion Soojin Park (Auburn High School)
  • Colorado  Champion Aidyn Reid (Fountain Valley School)
  • Nebraska Champion Alexandra Rose Zaleski (VJ and Angela Skutt Catholic High School)
  • South Dakota Champion Rahele Megosha (Washington High School)
  • Tennessee Champion Kendall Grimes (Battle Ground Academy)
  • Texas Champion Samuel Eluemunoh (Saint Mark's School of Texas)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Champion Kaden A. Hughes (Antilles School)
  • Vermont Champion Irén Hangen Vázquez (Burr and Burton Academy)
  • West Virginia Champion Ben Long (Notre Dame High School)

Photos and videos of these students are available for media use. To request an interview with one of these students, please email Liz Auclair at

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals will take place virtually with each finalist submitting in advance video recordings of their recitations—selected from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems—which will be part of the May 27 webcast. Judges will review and score the recitations based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. 

The 2021 national finals judges are: poet and executive director of Kundiman Cathy Linh Che; poet and NEA Creative Writing Fellow Eduardo C. Corral; poet, educator, and organizer Gabriel Cortez; scriptwriter, breakbeat poet, educator, and director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College Idris Goodwin; director and host of Poetry in America, director of Verse Video Education, and Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University Elisa New, and actor and 2007 Poetry Out Loud national runner-up Branden Wellington.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th–9th places. The representing schools/organizations of each of the top nine finalists receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. There was one honorable mention announced on May 2 in each of three national semifinals competitions—Lilian Myers (New Jersey), Morgan Love (Mississippi),  and Audrey-Rose Sevaaaetasi (American Samoa). Those students do not advance to the May 27 finals, but will each receive a $1,000 cash award and a $500 stipend for their school or organization. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded for Poetry Out Loud. 

The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts. Closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for the Poetry Out Loud national finals.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL21 and #IAmPoetryOutLoud and follow the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation at @PoetryOutLoud, @NEAArts, and @PoetryFound.

About Poetry Out Loud
A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud starts at the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Students memorize and recite poems they select from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Winners then may advance to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the national finals. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools and organizations across the nation have participated in Poetry Out Loud. For more information about Poetry Out Loud and how to participate in the 2021-2022 program, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more. 

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American 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, visit

About Mid Atlantic Arts

Mid Atlantic Arts was established in 1979 to promote and support multi-state arts programming in a region that includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is one of six regional arts organizations in the United States, and works in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and its member state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Mid Atlantic Arts distinguishes itself through its work in international cultural exchange, model programs in performing arts touring, its knowledge and presence in the jazz field, and its support of folk and traditional arts. 


Liz Auclair (NEA),, 202-682-5744
Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson (Poetry Foundation),, 312-799-8065