Whitefield Academy Student Wins 2020 Poetry Out Loud State Championship

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

The Georgia Department of Economic Development's Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) this week announced that Grayson Nour, a senior at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Georgia, took home first prize in the 2020 Poetry Out Loud state championship. A senior at DeKalb School of the Arts in Avondale Estates, Kamryn Jones, was runner-up in the competition. Notably, more Georgia schools than ever before joined this year’s program.

While regional contests were held in person, this year’s final spring competition was conducted through video entries submitted by the students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, the state champion would go on to represent Georgia at the national finals in Washington, D.C. However, the national Poetry Out Loud Finals were canceled this year as a precautionary measure.

“Poetry Out Loud is an exceptional program that utilizes great works of poetry to foster critical skills in students such as public speaking, memorization and performance that are essential for a myriad of industries and careers,” said Karen Paty, executive director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “Georgia Council for the Arts is immensely proud of every Georgia student who participates in this notable program, especially this year as they adeptly transitioned from an in-person to an all-digital platform. We are grateful to our partners at the National Endowment for the Arts and the Atlanta History Center, and for the many classroom English Language Arts teachers who have supported this program locally and empowered our students to take the stage and recite great works of literary art.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation which encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization and recitation of the written word. Georgia's Poetry Out Loud champion would normally receive $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). However, due to the cancellation of the National Finals this year, Nour and each of the other state champions will receive $1,000. Her school will also be presented with a $500 certificate that will go toward new books. As Poetry Out Loud runner-up, Jones will receive $100 from the NEA, and $200 for new books for her school.

"As a senior, Poetry Out Loud has been one of the best experiences of the year. From the live region competition to the virtual state competition, it was all very rewarding,” said Nour. “Poetry Out Loud has made me see poetry as not just a unit in my English classes, but something that is truly beautiful. Every poem that I chose meant something personal to me, whether that be my passions or my faith. I am beyond grateful for this win and cannot wait to see what is up next for Poetry Out Loud."

Started in 2005 as a pilot program in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Poetry Out Loud has grown to involve millions of students from across the country.

This is the 12th year that the Atlanta History Center's Margaret Mitchell House has been selected by Georgia Council for the Arts to coordinate the state's Poetry Out Loud competition. Georgia's 2020 participation included:

106 schools in 59 counties

11,645 students

574 teachers

“Poetry Out Loud in Georgia had an amazing year with the most schools to participate in the 15 years since the program became a national competition,” said Emily Cobb, Poetry Out Loud State Coordinator at the Atlanta History Center. “Although the live state finals competition was canceled, we were able to hold the first virtual Poetry Out Loud competition and select a state champion for 2020. While this virtual competition does not replace the experience of a live competition, we were able to celebrate our state finalists and watching our wonderful students recite poetry was still an amazing experience.”