New Jersey Poetry Out Loud Announces 2024 State Finalists and Prepares for State Finals at the Count Basie Center


(RED BANK | FEBRUARY 23): Following New Jersey’s 2024 Poetry Out Loud Regional Competitions, twelve finalists 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 Appel Farm Arts & Music Center, Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, Mayo Performing Arts Center, Passaic County Community College, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, and South Orange 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. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.3 million students and 76,000 teachers from 19,000 schools and organizations across the nation have participated in Poetry Out Loud. 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:

Poetry Out Loud New JerseyNay’Quan Coriano, from Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Vineland
Gianna Escobar
, from Union County Vo-tech High School in Scotch Plains
Michaela Giuliani
, from Vineland High School in Vineland
Kailan Cass-Adams-Johnson
, from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood
Elicia Johnson, from South River High School in South River
Yumna Juha, from Montgomery High School in Skillman
Amya Martinez, from North Star Academy Washington Park in Newark
Sophia Padilla, from The Morris County School of Technology in Denville
Denni Schwartz, from Naaleh High School for Girls in Fair Lawn
Leah Seche
, from Doane Academy in Burlington
Dhriti Somas, from Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan in Demarest
Lucas Wilson, from Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver

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 14, 2024 at Count Basie Center for the Arts. The State Finals will be the culmination of a statewide initiative that began in the fall of 2023 and included 10,587 New Jersey students from 69 high schools across the state. Students competed first at the classroom or community level and then at the regional level to determine the 12 finalists who would move on to State competition.

“We are excited to once again be hosting the State Finals at Count Basie Center for the Arts,” said Kevin O’Brien, Chair of the Arts Education Committee of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. “The Basie has been an incredible partner for Poetry Out Loud, working tirelessly to strengthen an already robust program. We cannot wait to see how each of the twelve finalists do on the Basie Center’s historic stage. There’s nothing quite like watching a young person’s love of poetry come alive, and we are eager to cheer them all on.”

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.