Governor Corbett: Berks County High School Senior is 'Poetry Out Loud' State Champion

Mar 14, 2011, 15:52 ET from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- DeVonna Smith, a senior at Reading High School, Berks County, today won the state finals of the 2011 "Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest." Governor Tom Corbett and First Lady Susan Corbett hosted the competition at the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg.

Smith will represent Pennsylvania in the national championship to be held in Washington, D.C., the last week of April.

Second place went to Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, a junior at Liberty High School in the Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County.

Smith and Gilrain-McKenna were among 12 regional finalists chosen from 10,000 Pennsylvania high school students who participated in this year's competition. It is facilitated through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

"I'm glad that our state takes the time to acknowledge our poets. I'm also glad that, over the past five years, 35,000 high school students from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in-between took part in this competition," said Gov. Corbett. "I know that the parents, teachers and principals who join us here today deserve great credit for teaching the importance of poetry."

First Lady Susan Corbett, who has been a member of the arts council since 2002, congratulated the contestants, their families, teachers and school administrators. She was also a judge in 2005, the first year of the competition.

"Pennsylvania is one of the few states to hold these school and regional poetry competitions," said Mrs. Corbett. "We have been able to do this through the Council on the Arts' education partners. It is an honor to welcome such bright and talented students to the Residence today."

Each student memorized and performed three poems selected from print and online poetry anthologies. Students were judged on voice and articulation, physical presence, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, overall performance, and accuracy.

The 10 other regional finalists competing today were:

  • Elizabeth Catchmark, Grade 10, Bellefonte Area School District, Centre County;
  • Ellecina Eck, Grade 9, home-school student from Juniata County;
  • Ella Glabicki, Grade 10, DuBois Area School District, Clearfield County;
  • Nuria Hunter, Grade 11, West Chester Area School District, Chester County;
  • Jillian Johannes, Grade 10, Mercyhurst Preparatory School, Erie County;
  • Nora Katz, Grade 11, Palisades School District, Bucks County;
  • Gabriel Kelly, Grade 10, Franklin Regional School District, Westmoreland County;
  • Abby Leidigh, Grade 10, Carlisle Area School District, Cumberland County;
  • Claire Matway, Grade 11, Pittsburgh Public Schools – Creative and Performing Arts Magnet School, Allegheny County; and
  • Amanda Rucker, Grade 10, Montrose Area School District, Susquehanna County.

The panel of judges for the state championship included performers, poets and cultural and business leaders from across the state:

  • Charlotte Blake Alston, a professional storyteller, narrator, instrumentalist and singer from Philadelphia;
  • Jenny Hershour of Harrisburg, managing director of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, the statewide arts advocacy organization;
  • Iya Isoke, poet laureate of the City of Harrisburg;
  • Olivia Meldrum, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio and Pennsylvania's 2007 Poetry Out Loud state champion;
  • Robert Rutz, senior vice president and managing director, PNC Bank Financial Services Group;
  • JoBeth McKee, language education advisor for the state Department of Education and Jamie Kasper, associate director of the Arts Education Collaborative of Pittsburgh, served as accuracy judges; and
  • Jeffrey Gabel of Gettysburg, founding executive director of the historic Majestic Theater served as master of ceremonies.

Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, the "Poetry Out Loud" contest encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition. The state champion will receive $200 from The Poetry Foundation and an expense-paid trip to compete in the national championship, which will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with at least one $20,000 college scholarship.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is a state agency under the Governor's Office that works to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in Pennsylvania and to broaden the availability and appreciation of those arts throughout the state. The council formed the Pennsylvania Arts in Education Partnership in 1995 to enhance efforts to foster educational excellence through participation in the creative process in schools and community settings.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, visit or call 717-787-6883. For further information on Poetry Out Loud, visit

Media contacts:

Heather Doughty, PA Council on the Arts, 717-787-1517

Kirsten Page, Governor's Office, 717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Council on the Arts