Indiana County Student David "DJ" Gress is 'Poetry Out Loud' State Champion

Mar 11, 2013, 14:59 ET from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --  David "DJ" Gress, a senior at The Kiski School, Indiana County, today won the state finals of the 2013 "Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest."

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts hosted the competition at the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg. Governor Tom Corbett, along with First Lady Susan Corbett, chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, welcomed the competitors to the Residence.

"Governor Corbett and I are pleased to host the finals for Pennsylvania's Poetry Out Loud competition. During the past eight years, 55,000 high school students have participated in the competition," said Susan Corbett. "We congratulate this year's 14 finalists and the parents, teachers and principals who supported them in this endeavor."

Gress will represent Pennsylvania at the national championship to be held in Washington, D.C. April 28-30. 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.

Second place went to Alex Jackson, a sophomore at Mercersburg Academy in Franklin County.

Gress and Jackson were among 14 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.

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 12 other regional finalists competing today were:

  • Ean Ammerman, Grade 11, Sullivan County School District-Sullivan County
  • Brittany Lynn Farnsworth, Grade 12, State College Area School District-Centre County
  • John Gilbert, Grade 12, Juniata County School District-Juniata County
  • Annette Hilton, Grade 12, Crawford Central School District-Crawford County
  • Rachel Krunszyinsky, Grade 11, Greensburg Salem School District-Westmoreland County
  • Hanna Misera, Grade 12, Bellwood-Antis School District-Blair County
  • Alex Novak, Grade 12, Rose Tree Media School District-Delaware County
  • Aaron Preston, Grade 10, Reading School District-Berks County
  • Amanda Rucker, Grade 12, Montrose Area School District-Susquehanna County
  • Maxwell Stephens, Grade 11, Carlisle Area School District-Cumberland County
  • Anna Voelker, Grade 11, Hampton Township School District-Allegheny County; and
  • Isaiah Zukowski, Grade 12, East Penn School District-Lehigh County

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

  • Kim Bridgford, poet and director of the West Chester Poetry Center and the distinguished West Chester University Poetry Conference;
  • E. Jeanne Gleason, vice chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, arts leader and advocate;
  • Vanessa German, a nationally recognized performance poet and multi-disciplinary artist;
  • Claire Lee, one of five national winners of the National Student Poets Program, a new initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities;
  • Mimi Kenney Smith, producing artistic director of Amaryllis Theatre Company and the executive director of VSA PA;
  • Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and chair of the board of directors of Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania;
  • O. David Dietz, the arts and humanities consultant for the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Amy Gabriele, Deputy Director for Administration of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, served as accuracy judges;
  • Jewel Jones-Fulp, senior staff member of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts served as recitation prompter; and
  • Jeffrey Gabel of Gettysburg, founding executive director of the historic Majestic Theater and PCA member, 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 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 contact: Heather Doughty, 717-787-1517

SOURCE Pennsylvania Council on the Arts