Tyrone Junior Advances to Poetry Out Loud State Finals


Todd Cammarata

Tyrone Junior Mario Grugan has qualified for the state finals of the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud Contest.

Tyrone junior Mario Grugan won the regional Poetry Out Load competition and has qualified for the state finals.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country.

“In a world dominated by images, Poetry Out Loud reminds us of the surprising power of the written and spoken word. Harnessing that power is no easy feat, and to see Tyrone students rising to the challenge is gratifying,” said Steve Everhart, TAHS English Department Chair and local Poetry Out Loud judge.

According to its website, the Poetry Out Loud Competition helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

“Call me a nerd but certain poetry is just fun to read and express,” said Grugan. “I chose the poems I did because they are ones most people would understand because they have felt the feelings expressed in them.”

Last year, over 4,600 high school students in Pennsylvania participated in the competition in 110 schools across the commonwealth. Nationally, more than 4 million students and 65,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state and territory participated.

The competition is usually held in-person but is being held virtually this year with students submitting videos of their readings to the judges.

Tyrone High School had four entries into the competition.  In addition to Grugan, freshman Alysa Wheland, sophomore Laci Daniel, and senior Anna-Lynn Fryer also entered the contest.

The students spent December selecting, preparing, recording, and uploading two recitations to a Google Classroom where four judges evaluated them on performance criteria and accuracy.

“I’m so proud of these four speakers,” Leah Deskevich, TAHS Speech Team Co-Advisor, said. “They exceeded my expectations and pushed us all into a great understanding of what a quality recitation looks like. Speech Team will never be the same.”

For the regional competition organized by the Southern Museum of the Arts in Loretto, Grugan prepared, recorded, and submitted three recitations from the Poetry Out Loud anthology.

Each winner at the state level receives $200 and competes in the national finals. The state winner’s school/organization receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for their school.

At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.

The winner of the state competition will be announced on March 8th at noon.

The POL National Semifinals will take place on Sunday, May 2nd and the POL National Finals will take place on Thursday, May 27th. Both will be video submission-based competitions and will be streamed on arts.gov.