SOPAC features Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national program that gives high school students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with poetry. Students commit to studying and reciting classic and modern poetry. For the last three years the South Orange Performing Arts Center has hosted the regional finals for students from Essex and Union County high schools. According to the Jersey Arts website, students compete for awards and scholarships that add up to $50,000.

The students prepare all through fall for the February regional finals. Students compete in the classroom and school champions compete at regional finals. Two regional champions go on to the state level and the state champion competes in Washington D.C. for the national finals.


“I meet with participating students individually and we spend time analyzing and running through the delivery of their selected poems,” said Jennifer Kuszmerski, Jonathan Dayton High School English teacher.

In Jonathan Dayton High School’s second year of competing their very own Beatrice Dimaculangan won the state competition. Kuszmerski said after competing in Poetry Out Loud Beatrice started attending and participating in poetry slam and open mic events in her area. “I think POL gave her confidence and motivation to perform her own poetry in a real-world setting,” said Kuszmerski.

This program highlights the great works of poets and allows students to make them their own while opening them up to the world of poetry. “My favorite part of the program is what the students get out of it. There aren’t many people advocating for poetry it’s kind of a lost art,” said Linda Beard, SOPAC Director of Community Engagement.

Through this program many different communities are able to come together to support students as they pursue their interest in performing arts. “I would be interested in going to the Poetry Out Loud event because I think it is important to encourage young people to pursue things they are interested in. If poetry is a passion for these students, we should foster their creativity so that they continue to develop these interests,” said Collette Brisson, a senior broadcasting and visual media major.

Various videos from past regional and state finals can be viewed on the Jersey Arts website and youtube. Regional Finals for 2017 will be held at SOPAC on Feb. 8.

Margarita Williamson can be reached at

Author: Margarita Willamson

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