Harrisburg, PA – Taha Vahanvaty, a senior from Stroudsburg Area School District in Monroe County, is Pennsylvania's 2021 Poetry Out Loud (POL) state champion. Vahanvaty will represent Pennsylvania in the National Finals, which will be held virtually and begin on May 2, 2021.
In adherence to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) hosted the state competition virtually. Karl Blischke, PCA executive director, announced Vahanvaty as the state champion via Facebook.
"I would like to commend not only Taha, as the 2021 POL state champion, but also recognize all of our student competitors, who committed to and excelled at this program during an extraordinarily challenging year," said Blischke. "Participation in the arts, and in programs like Poetry Out Loud, help students cultivate key skills that lead to success in school and the workplace, building Pennsylvania's future pool of innovators and creative thinkers."
The POL state champion receives $200 from the Poetry Foundation and, in non-pandemic years, an expense-paid trip to the national championship. The POL state champion's school receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.
First runner-up in the state finals went to Q Hanley, a sophomore from Cornwall-Lebanon School District in Lebanon County. As first runner-up, Hanley will receive $100 and $200 for their school.
The 13 state POL competitors were among more than 1,000 high school students who participated in this year's competition in 74 schools across Pennsylvania.
Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The contest is facilitated through PCA, working with regional partner organizations.
Each student memorized and prepared three poems selected from print and online poetry anthologies. All 13 students performed in the first two rounds of competition, with the top five going on to compete in the third and final round. Students were judged on voice and articulation, physical presence, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy.
The complete list of all 13 regional competitors who competed in the 2021 POL state championship includes:
- Yamilé Nader Almonte, Carbon County, Hazleton Area School District
- Caitlin Blessel, Elk County, St. Marys Area School District
- Anna Farris, Centre County, State College Area School District
- Steven File, York County, York Suburban School District
- Mario Grugan, Huntingdon County, Tyrone Areas school District
- Q Hanley, Lebanon County, Cornwall-Lebanon School District
- Zachary Marshall, Juniata County, Juniata County School District
- Oam Patel, Lycoming County, Williamsport Area School District
- Lily Nguyen, Lancaster County, Lancaster Country Day School
- Spencer Schwartz, Delaware County, Rose Tree Media School District
- Taha Vahanvaty, Monroe County, Stroudsburg Area School District
- Lily Weatherford-Brown, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh Public Schools
- Julia Wirths, Clearfield County, DuBois Area School District
The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) is a state agency under the Office of the Governor. The mission of the PCA is to strengthen the cultural, educational and economic vitality of Pennsylvania's communities through the arts. By leveraging the immense potential of Pennsylvania's arts and cultural sector, the PCA supports jobs, builds community, inspires lifelong learning, promotes the commonwealth nationally and internationally, and sparks innovation.
For more information about the PCA, visit arts.pa.gov or call 717-787-6883. For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit poetryoutloud.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Norah Johnson, 717-525-5549