New Jersey Poetry Out Loud crowns its 2022 State Champion


Italy Whitehead - NJ Poetry Out Loud State ChampionItaly Whitehead, a junior from Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy in Elizabeth, was named State Champion at the 2022 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud State Finals competition. The virtual adjudication took place on March 1st and a compilation video broadcast the following day, March 2nd on the NJPOL YouTube channel.

Italy Whitehead will represent New Jersey at National Finals and compete against champions from 55 states and territories. All participants will compete for the national title and the chance to win prizes including college scholarships.

Abigail Schwartz, a junior from Ramsey High School in Ramsey, earned the title of State Runner-Up.

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation program through which students learn to perform great works of classical and contemporary poetry. The State Finals was the culmination of a statewide contest that began in the fall and included 8,174 New Jersey students from 47 high schools across the state. Students competed first at the classroom and school level, and then at the regional level to determine the 10 finalists who would move on to State competition.

Congratulations to all who participated, including the top ten finalists:

Najvir Dhinju, from Vineland High School in Vineland, NJ
Victoria King, from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, NJ
Marliza Mabutas, from William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City, NJ
Hannah Ortiz-Strauss, from Cinnaminson High School in Cinnaminson, NJ
Mylee Shultz, from Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, NJ
Abigail Schwartz, from Ramsey High School in Ramsey, NJ
Lydia Smith, from Henry Hudson Regional School in Highlands, NJ
Dhriti Somas, from Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, NJ
Italy Whitehead, from Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy in Elizabeth, NJ
Samantha Yannarelli, from Mater Dei Prep in Middletown, NJ

Watch the NJPOL State Finals Here

National Competition

The National Poetry Out Loud Semifinals will take place virtually on Sunday, May 1, 2022. The New Jersey State Champion will compete in Semifinals Group 1 against 17 other states/territories.

The top 9 students from the Semifinals will advance to the national finals which will be streamed on Sunday, June 5.

For more information, visit

Upcoming Events & Deadlines:

• May 1, 2022: National Poetry Out Loud Virtual Semifinals
• May 9, 2022: POL Professional Development
• June 5, 2022: National Poetry Out Loud Virtual Finals

Have Questions or Stories to Share? We’d be happy to hear from you! Send all inquiries to [email protected].

New Jersey Poetry Out Loud is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, in collaboration with Count Basie Center for the Arts. National Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies of the United States. Additional support for NJPOL is provided by ArtPride NJ Foundation and local partners.