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Ohio Poetry Out Loud State Finals logo

9 Students to Compete in Ohio Poetry Out Loud State Finals

Nine Ohio high school students will compete for the title of Ohio’s 2020 Poetry Out Loud (POL) State Champion on March 6 at the King Arts Complex’s Nicholson Auditorium in Columbus.

Now in its 15th year, POL is a program created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that is administered in partnership with state arts agencies from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

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. Participating schools register for the competition each year, and contests are staged at the school and regional level. Students who perform successfully at their region’s semifinal are then invited to compete in the State Finals for the chance to win cash prizes and the opportunity to represent Ohio at the National Finals in Washington, D.C., in April.

This year, the nine students who will compete at the State Finals competition are:


  • Judy Bennett, senior, Gahanna Lincoln High School (Gahanna)
  • Zoe Douglas, senior, North Royalton High School (North Royalton)
  • Mi’Cayla Hendrix-Pitts, senior, Mount Notre Dame High School (Cincinnati)
  • Ryan House, sophomore, John Glenn High School (New Concord)
  • James Miller, junior, Woodward High School (Toledo)
  • Zurie Pope, junior, Piqua High School (Piqua)
  • Austin Smith, senior, Bexley High School (Bexley)
  • Zaria Spidell, freshman, Toledo Early College High School (Toledo)
  • Monserrat Tlahuel-Flores, junior, St. Frances DeSales High School (Columbus)

The State Finals will consist of three rounds. Each student will recite one poem in each of the first two rounds, and the top six highest-scoring students from the first two rounds will recite a third poem in the final 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. In addition to scoring the students’ recitations, Abbott, Kangas, and Smith will recite their own poems during one of the contest’s intermissions.

The Ohio Poetry Out Loud State Finals will begin at 6 p.m., with doors to the Nicholson Auditorium opening at 5:50 p.m. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public.

The Nicholson Auditorium is located in the King Arts Complex, 867 Mt. Vernon Ave., Columbus, OH 43203.


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 the 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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