Congratulations to these local high schoolers and lets cheer them on to see if they make it to the state finals!

It's called the "Poetry Out Loud" Competition, and it's a national competition presented by the State Council on the Arts, Writers Theatre of NJ, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

The competition encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

This is the regional Monmouth/Ocean/Middlesex round of the annual competition, hosted by the Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy on Tuesday, Feb. 7th at 10 am.

Winners of this and five other regional rounds will move on to compete in the state competition in April (and then one will go on to the national competition in DC for prize money!) The Monmouth/Ocean/Middlesex competition will choose two winners from the following:

Sarah Baum (Junior, Marlboro High School)

Kristen Bray (Senior, Howell High School)

Megan Brown (Freshman, Ocean County Vo-Tech Performing Arts Academy)

Alexa Cahill (Senior, Middletown High School North)

Marlene Fernandez (Sophomore, Central Regional High School)

Julia Forsyth (Junior, Henry Hudson Regional School)

Anthony Forte (Junior, Barnegat High School)

Alex Gousett (Senior, Colts Neck High School)

Shea Grant (Sophomore, Red Bank Regional High School)

Danyal Malik (Senior, Holmdel High School)

Joseph Paolantonio (Junior, Monmouth Regional High School)

Karielys Rivera (Junior, Freehold High School)

Alexandra Szewczyk (Senior, Shore Regional High School)

Nora Asker (Freshman, Noor Ul-Iman)

Samantha Ferreira (Senior, Colonia High School)

Gisselle Martinez (Sophomore, South River High School)

Sophia Turci (Junior, Piscataway High School)

Daniel Wall (Senior, John P. Stevens High School)

Adi Zacks (Junior, Spotswood High School)

Poetry Out Loud has reached more than 3 million students and 45,000 teachers from 10,000 schools nationwide over the past 11 years. On Feb. 7th, two winners will advance to the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition on March 9th at the College of NJ's Mayo Concert Hall at The Center for the Arts. From there, one state champ will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C. where $50,000 in awards school stipends will be distributed.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country, using a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then regional and state rounds. During the competition, students recite works they select from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. Judges then evaluate student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, and accuracy.

Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

In the event of inclement weather, the Monmouth/Ocean/Middlesex round will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 14th at 10 am at the Basie's Performing Arts Center building.

For more info about this or other Count Basie Theatre events, contact Jonathan Vena at

The Count Basie Theatre's primary mission is to serve the people of the State of New Jersey by providing a broad spectrum of quality entertainment and education programs that reflect and celebrate the diversity of the region; foster understanding and appreciation for the ennobling power of the performing arts, create opportunity for cultural enrichment for people at all economic levels, and honor the memory of Red Bank native and renowned jazz pianist William James 'Count' Basie. Count Basie Theatre programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. For more info on everything available at Count Basie Theatre, from shows to performing arts opportunities, CLICK HERE.

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