New Jersey Poetry Out Loud Announces 2023 Regional Finalists and Prepares for State Finals

(RED BANK | FEBRUARY 16, 2023):
Following New Jersey’s 2022-23 regional Poetry Out Loud competitions, ten finalists have been named who will vie for this year’s title of New Jersey State Champion at Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts. Regional competitions took place in early February at Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, South Orange Performing Arts Center, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Mayo Performing Arts Center.

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. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the 55 state and jurisdictional arts agencies.

Congratulations to all the finalists moving on to State Finals:

  • Kailan Cass-Adams-Johnson, from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood
  • Gwendolyn Chung, from Dr. Ronald E. McNair High School in Jersey City
  • Jake Fredericks, from Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver
  • Connor Gargiulo, from West Milford High School in West Milford
  • Daila Kim, from Livingston High School in Livingston
  • Victoria King, from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly
  • Amya Martinez, from North Star Academy Washington Park in Newark
  • Leanna Mentone, from Vernon Township High School in Vernon
  • Avanti Patwardhan, from Bridgewater-Raritan High School in Bridgewater Township
  • Lydia Smith, from Henry Hudson Regional High School in Highlands

These finalists will represent their region and compete for the title of State Champion at the New Jersey Poetry Out Loud State Finals on March 6, 2023 at Count Basie Center for the Arts. The State Champion will move on to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington D.C. to compete against students from across the 55 states and jurisdictional territories.

“We’re always in awe of the talent, courage, and creativity of the thousands of students who participate in Poetry Out Loud,” said Allison Tratner, Executive Director of the NJ State Council on the Arts. “With so many competing priorities in school and family life today, we’re grateful to the educators and caregivers who support these students in finding and sharing their unique voices. It’s an incredibly impressive group of 10 Finalists, and we look forward to cheering them on at the State Competition next month.”

The State Finals will be the culmination of a statewide initiative that began in the fall of 2022 and included 10,179 New Jersey students from 64 high schools and organizations across the state.

For more information about New Jersey Poetry Out Loud and the State Finals, visit


The Count Basie Center for the Arts is New Jersey’s premier center for the cultural arts, dedicated to fostering powerful, inclusive artistic experiences and creative exchange of ideas. The Basie mission is to inspire, educate and entertain through its distinct and engaging cultural and artistic offerings that embrace and amplify the diversity of the region. As a nonprofit organization, the Basie is committed to enriching the community’s quality of life by generating opportunities for participation in the arts, partnering with schools, collaborating with other mission-based organizations and driving regional economic prosperity.


The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, created in 1966, is a division of the NJ Department of State and a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Council was established to encourage and foster public interest in the arts; enlarge public and private resources devoted to the arts; promote freedom of expression in the arts; and facilitate the inclusion of art in every public building in New Jersey. The Council believes the arts are central to every element we value most in a modern society including: human understanding; cultural and civic pride; strong communities; excellent schools; lifelong learning; creative expression; and economic opportunity. To learn more about the Council, please visit


New Jersey Poetry Out Loud is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Count Basie Center for the ArtsPoetry Out Loud is a national arts education program, led by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in partnership with the state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the country. In New Jersey, the State Arts Council and the Basie work with a growing network of regional partners to implement the program statewide.


Poetry Out Loud Footer