Power of Culture Blog
Poetry Out Loud Takes Students from the Page to the Stage
Congratulations to 2023 Massachusetts State Champion Jaden Riley, a senior at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury
The Norwell High School senior was also state champion and a top-9 national finalist in 2019
In a first-ever virtual contest, Norwell High School senior Rose Hansen was named the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts State Champion on March 14, 2021. Hansen was also previously the 2019 Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts State Champion and a top-9 national finalist.
Hansen bested 11 other finalists to earn the top honor. Placing second was Cameron Smith, a senior from Meridian Academy in Jamaica Plain, Boston, followed by Elton Muchugi, the inaugural Individual Cohort Winner who is a senior at Leominster High School.
Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national recitation contest for high school students that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating self-confidence and an appreciation of students’ literary heritage. The Huntington Theatre Company’s Department of Education has facilitated the Massachusetts chapter of this national recitation contest in partnership with Mass Cultural Council since its inception 16 years ago and has ranked nationally in participation statistics for ten years in a row. The program is facilitated nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation. POL is in all 50 states, DC, the US Virgin Islands, America Samoa, and Guam.
In a typical year, after high schools hold their own contests, the Huntington hosts 5 regional semi-final contests in Boston, Cape Cod, Hopkinton, Newburyport, and Springfield, and then a state final at the Old South Meeting House in Boston, but the contest was entirely virtual this year due to the pandemic. The NEA and Poetry Foundation introduced two new ways for students to participate this year: in this pilot year, any cultural organization was invited to participate and run their own POL program, and individual students were able to participate if their school was not going to register. POL Massachusetts welcomed a program at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts, and five students in our Individual Cohort.
“Poetry Out Loud is an inspiring program,” says Michael J. Bobbitt, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director. “It provides a remarkable opportunity for the young people in our Commonwealth to express their talents and creativity, while celebrating the power and diversity of the spoken word. This year’s contest was unlike any other, and we thank our partner, the Huntington Theatre Company, for navigating the logistics and bringing Poetry Out Loud into the lives of so many young people.”
“Poetry Out Loud was especially moving this year,” says Meg O’Brien, Huntington’s Director of Education, “in the ways our contestants worked with their respective teachers and POL Coordinators to digitally record their recitations, submit those recitations to us earlier than ever before, and make the most of this year’s virtual program. I congratulate all of the students who participated this year and am deeply proud of the entire Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts community of contestants, teachers, coordinators, families, judges, and staff.”
7,229 students, 215 teachers, 40 schools, and 1 cultural organization participated in Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts in 2021 (full list of schools is below). The 12 finalists were the top scoring contestants from 3 regional semi-final contests shared virtually on March 6, 7, and 8. The digital program is available online.
As 2021 Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts State Champion, Rose Hansen will now compete for the national championship. The nationals will also be virtual with regional semi-finals shared digitally on May 2 and the national finals shared on May 27, 2021. All national level events will be streamed at the NEA website.
The judges for the Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts State Finals were poet and educator Jamele Adams, poet and co-founder of Mass Poetry Michael Ansara, and Cookie Gamble, multi-hyphenate artist and teen director at the Huntington Avenue YMCA. Huntington Trustee and Education Committee member Betsy Epstein was the accuracy judge.
Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough
Barnstable High School, Barnstable
Boston Latin School, Boston
Burlington High School, Burlington
Codman Academy Charter Public School, Dorchester
Commonwealth School, Boston
Dana Hall School, Wellesley
Dartmouth High School, Dartmouth
Dennis-Yarmouth High School, Yarmouth
Dracut High School, Dracut
Foxborough Regional Charter School , Foxborough
Franklin High School, Franklin
Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School, Greenfield
Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, Groton
Hopkinton Center for the Arts, Hopkinton
Hull High School, Hull
Innovation Academy Charter School, Tyngsborough
John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, Roxbury
Longmeadow High School, Longmeadow
Masconomet Regional High School, Boxford
Melrose High School, Melrose
Meridian Academy, Jamaica Plain
Methuen High School, Methuen
Montrose School, Medfield
Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, Malden
Newburyport High School, Newburyport
North High School, Worcester
Norwell High School, Norwell
Pelham Academy, Lexington
Plymouth North High School, Plymouth
Plymouth South High School, Plymouth
Randolph High School, Randolph
Rockland High School, Rockland
Salem High School, Salem
South Hadley High School, South Hadley
South Shore Charter Public School, Norwell
St. Sebastian’s School, Needham
Swampscott High School, Swampscott
Westfield High School, Westfield
Worcester Technical High School, Worcester