March 21, 2012

State Champion Named at NJ Poetry Out Loud Competition

Up Next: National Poetry Competition in Washington, DC

(Trenton, NJ) Kristin Tsuo, an eleventh grader from The Lawrenceville School, was named State Champion at the NJ Poetry Out Loud competition, a national poetry recitation program. The state finals took place today at the College of New Jersey’s Kendall Main Stage Theatre in Ewing. Ms. Tsuo will move on to represent New Jersey in the national finals in Washington, DC in May to compete against 52 other champions from every state and territory across the nation, all vying for the national title and the chance to win prizes including college scholarships.

Now in its seventh year, Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, and implemented by state arts councils across the country. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts sponsors NJ Poetry Out Loud and works closely with a network of partners to maximize the impact of the program. Program partners include Playwrights Theatre of NJ, Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs, Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts, Mayo Performing Arts Center, Two River Theater, CavanKerry Press and Discover Jersey Arts, a cosponsored initiative of the Arts Council and ArtPride NJ Foundation. Support for the program is also provided by the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey.

“The growing popularity of Poetry Out Loud in New Jersey is proof that the program hits the mark with students, teachers, administrators and parents,” remarked State Arts Council Chair Ofelia Garcia. “Through the process of memorizing, interpreting and personalizing each poem, students are challenged to think critically and creatively, and to build the self confidence so vital for success no matter what career path they choose.”

The state finals are the culmination of a competition that began in the fall and included more than 19,000 students from 108 high schools and 1 homeschool association. The eight state finalists successfully competed in classroom, school, and regional-level contests before qualifying to compete in today’s competition. Along with Ms. Tsuo, Clarissa Lotson, a senior from West Orange High School, earned the title of State Runner-Up. Following is a list of the eight student finalists:

State Champion: Kristin Tsuo, The Lawrenceville School
State Runner-Up: Clarissa Lotson, West Orange High School
Sarah Finnan, Cinnaminson High School
Brianne Barker, Dumont High School
Daisha Davis, Essex County Vocational North 13th Street (Newark)
Jacob Ohring, High Tech High School (North Bergen)
Michael Chang, The Hun School of Princeton
Allison Beres, Vineland High School

Student recitations are evaluated by a panel of jurors using standardized, national criteria based on merit and accuracy. This year’s State Finals panel included special guest juror Frankie Faison, New Jersey resident and veteran stage, screen and television actor widely known for his starring role in the HBO series The Wire. Mr. Faison addressed the student finalists, remarking that he was in awe of their talent. He went on to describe his own experience with poetry recitation many years ago which, he said, brought him great joy and helped propel him to this point in his life.

Today’s winners receive cash awards and stipends provided by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation for the purchase of poetry books by their schools. State Champion Kristin Tsuo receives an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to compete in the national finals for prizes totaling $50,000 in awards and school stipends. All monetary prizes are provided by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation.

Learn more about New Jersey Poetry Out Loud, and watch clips from the state finals at

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the NEA, the Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies of the United States. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry - recitation and performance- to help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. To maximize the positive impact of the program in New Jersey the New Jersey State Council on the Arts partners with Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey to provide intensive school residencies by professional poets and performing artists for interested schools. For more on the national program visit

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey began operations in 2004 and plans to promote health and the arts by supporting charitable organizations making a positive impact in the lives of people in communities throughout New Jersey. For more information about the foundation, visit

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts is a division of the NJ Department of State. It receives funding in direct appropriations from the State of New Jersey through a dedicated Hotel/Motel Occupancy fee and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 1966, its volunteer members and professional staff have worked to improve the quality of life in New Jersey by helping the arts to flourish. For more information about the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, please visit Further information regarding the arts in New Jersey is found on an interactive web site,, and available on a toll-free hotline 1-800- THE ARTS.

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