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6 Ohio High School Students to Compete in Virtual Poetry Out Loud State Finals

Ohio Poetry Out Loud 2021 State Finals to be held virtually on Friday, March 5, 2021, at 6 p.m.

Six Ohio high school students will compete in front of a virtual audience for the title of 2021 Ohio Poetry Out Loud (POL) state champion on March 5, 2021.

For 16 years, POL has connected high school students to poetry from a diverse array of poets from around the world and across the centuries. Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, POL is administered in partnership with the state arts agencies of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. POL encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary heritage and contemporary life.

This year, students will recite their poems live from the WOSU Public Media studios, with the competition broadcast publicly through Zoom. All participants and production staff will follow public health and safety guidelines, such as practicing mask-wearing and social distancing, while on-site and participating in the event.

The six students who will compete at the 2021 POL State Finals competition are:

  • Olivia Douglas – Medina High School
  • Lexi Gastelu– Piqua High School
  • Maxwell Gierke – Toledo School for the Arts
  • Monserrat Tlahuel-Flores – St. Francis DeSales High School
  • Jakob Tucker – Archbishop McNicholas High School
  • Lee Wilkins – John Glenn High School

The State Finals consists of three rounds. Each student will recite one poem in each round. Contest results will be determined by the cumulative scores from all three rounds, with the State Champion title awarded to the student with the highest score overall.

The State Finals will be adjudicated by three guest judges: poets Steve Abbott, Nancy Kangas, and Rose Smith, who will score students’ performances remotely. Also joining the event via Zoom will be the former State Senator Eric Kearney, who will serve as the event’s emcee, and Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour, who will present a reading of a few of her poems.

The winner of the Ohio State Finals will go on to represent the Buckeye State at the POL National Finals, where he or she will compete with other state champions for awards and the title of national champion. This year, the POL National Finals, which are typically held in-person in Washington, D.C., will “take place in the spring as a video submission-based competition,” the National Endowment for the Arts’ POL website stated. Dates for the national finals event are forthcoming.

Ohio’s 16th annual POL State Finals competition will begin on March 5 at 6 p.m. The event, which will be streamed on Zoom for free at, is open virtually to the public. 

The nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition is presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council. The Poetry Out Loud program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry, master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence, and study their literary heritage.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA 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 NEA 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 NEA.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist

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