For Immediate Release
March 6, 2017

Contact: Steve Wilcox
[email protected]

Arizona High School Students to Compete at State Finals of National Poetry Recitation Contest
Over 10,000 Arizona high school students participated in Poetry Out Loud in 2016-17

The Arizona Commission on the Arts will present the 12th Annual Arizona Poetry Out Loud state finals competition at the downtown Phoenix studios of Arizona PBS on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at 2:00 pm. Nine high school students from throughout the state will compete in the poetry recitation contest for an opportunity to represent Arizona at the 12th Annual Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts partners with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, as well as regional and local organizations, to administer the Poetry Out Loud program in Arizona. The contest encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation and helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level.  Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to regional and state-level competitions, and ultimately to the National Finals. Nearly 10,000 Arizona students from 43 schools in communities throughout the state participated in Poetry Out Loud this year.

2017 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finalists:

  • Paul Cassidy, Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix
  • Chaiah Durst, Sedona Red Rock High School, Sedona
  • India Harris, Desert View High School, Tucson
  • Tillie Jones, Willow Canyon High School, Surprise
  • Drew Kolber, Herberger Young Scholars Academy, Tempe
  • Amanda Rambert, American Leadership Academy Ironwood Campus, San Tan Valley
  • Kellen Vu, Arizona School for the Arts, Phoenix
  • Sophie Weinzinger, Coconino High School, Flagstaff
  • Olivia Wrenn, Sonoran Science Academy, Tucson

“The students work hard to get to the finals,” said Robert C. Booker, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. “Watching such a diverse group of exceptional young people from around the state stand tall, recite, and display their understanding and love of poetry is truly remarkable and inspirational. These young people learn skills through this competition that will serve them for a lifetime.”

Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC, (with an adult chaperone) to compete at the National Finals. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. One runner-up receives $100; his or her school receives $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

This year the state finals competition will return to the studios of Arizona PBS in Downtown Phoenix, who previously hosted the event in 2011, 2013, and 2016. The event will be emceed by Tomas Stanton, a poet, teaching artist, and co-founder of the arts education and youth development program Phonetic Spit. The event will also feature remarks by special guest Dr. Laura Tohe, Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation. The event will be recorded and broadcast on Arizona PBS on Friday, April 7, at 9:30 pm.

Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finals

  • Where: Arizona PBS, 555 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
  • When: Saturday, March 11, 2017, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
  • Admission: Free and open to the public.
  • Televised Broadcast: Friday, April 7, 2017, 9:30 pm, on Arizona PBS channel 8.1.

About Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. For further information regarding Poetry Out Loud, visit

About the Arizona Commission on the Arts

One of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the United States, the Arizona Commission on the Arts is a 50 year-old agency of the State of Arizona and a leading force in the creative and professional development of Arizona’s arts sector. Through robust programs, research initiatives, and strategic grantmaking, the Arts Commission catalyzes arts-based partnerships that strengthen Arizona communities through the arts.

We imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts.

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For more information on the Arizona Commission on the Arts or Arizona Poetry Out Loud, please visit or contact Steve Wilcox, Communications and Research Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts, at (602) 771-6536 or [email protected].

To request this or any other agency publication in an alternative format, contact the Arts Commission offices at (602) 771-6502.

Images available upon request.

Banner photo: 2015 Arizona Poetry Out Loud state champion Zaskia Villa of Nogales. Photo by Alonso Parra.