//Georgia sophomore wins 2024 Poetry Out Loud state championship

Georgia sophomore wins 2024 Poetry Out Loud state championship

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ATLANTA – The Georgia Council for the Arts announces a Georgia sophomore as the 2024 Poetry Out Loud state champion.


The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) this week announced that Tiana Jones, a sophomore from Whitefield Academy in Cobb County, took home first prize in the 2024 Poetry Out Loud state championship. Lindsey Ponder from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School was runner-up in the competition.

The state champion will go on to represent Georgia at the national finals, which will be held April 30-May 2, in Washington, D.C. Following a series of regional competitions with a virtual option included, 14 students reached the state finals, where they competed at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta on March 8. Among the diverse panel of judges were college and university professors, comedy writers and producers, poets and theater company educators, along with Georgia Poet Laureate Chelsea Rathburn.

“Poetry Out Loud inspires Georgia’s high school students to learn about contemporary poetry and build critical skills like public speaking and memorization that are essential for every industry and career. The program encourages students to broaden their perspectives and step out of their comfort zone, building self-confidence and nurturing curiosity,” said Tina Lilly, Executive Director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “We thank the Alliance Theatre for their leadership and applaud our new regional partners in Albany and Savannah as we enjoy increasing interest from both students and educators in this growing program.” 

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. In partnership with GCA, the Alliance Theatre administers the Georgia program, which served 37 schools and community organizations in 2023-2024 and reached 3,657 students and 236 educators.

Georgia’s Poetry Out Loud champion will receive $200 from the NEA. Jones’ school will also be presented with a $500 certificate that will go toward new books. As Poetry Out Loud runner-up, Ponder will receive $100 from the NEA, and $200 for new books for her school.

“This Poetry Out Loud experience has exceeded my expectations!” said Georgia Poetry Out Loud Champion Tiana Jones. “Just being surrounded by such talented peers placing their interpretations of these poet’s works on full display was a joy to be a part of. I’m so grateful to be accompanied by such a supportive family and I pray for many more blessings to come our way. I look forward to meeting and competing with each State champion as we all continue on to Nationals.”

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. In the last eight years, Georgia’s champions have been awarded more than $45,000 from national and state competitions. Four champions from Georgia have placed in the top three at the national finals in that time, including a first-place win in 2017.

“The Alliance Theatre is honored to administer Poetry Out Loud for the State of Georgia,” said Chris Moses, Artistic Director at the Alliance Theatre. “We are incredibly grateful to the entire community that makes this work possible, including dedicated educators, supportive parents and caregivers, committed regional artistic partners and contest judges, and of course – the brave and inspiring students who take to the mic. As we look ahead to the National Finals, we are wholeheartedly cheering Tiana on.”

If your school would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud next year, please contact poetryoutloud@alliancetheatre.org.

About Georgia Council for the Arts

Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) empowers the arts industry in Georgia and artists around the state to cultivate healthy, vibrant communities that are rich in civic participation, cultural experiences, and economic prosperity. As a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Council for the Arts provides grant funding, programs, and services statewide that support this vital industry, preserve our cultural heritage, and create increased access to high-quality arts experiences. gaarts.org.

About the Alliance Theatre

The Alliance Theatre is the leading producing theater in the Southeast, reaching more than 165,000 patrons annually. The Alliance is led by Jennings Hertz Artistic Directors Tinashe Kajese-Bolden and Christopher Moses and is a recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award® for sustained excellence in programming and education. The Alliance has premiered more than 135 productions including ten that have transferred to Broadway. The Alliance education department reaches 90,000 students annually through performances, classes, camps, and in-school initiatives designed to support teachers and enhance student learning. The Alliance Theatre values community, curiosity, collaboration, and excellence, and is dedicated to representing Atlanta’s diverse community with the stories we tell, the artists, staff, and leadership we employ, and audiences we serve. www.alliancetheatre.org