Georgia Council for the Arts Announces 2023 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Staff Report

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) this week announced that Molly Pitra, a junior from St. Pius X Catholic High School in DeKalb County, took home first prize in the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state championship. Amaya Ariel McGee from DeKalb School of the Arts was runner-up in the competition. 

The state champion will go on to represent Georgia at the national finals, which will be held May 8-10, in Washington, D.C. Following a series of regional competitions, 15 students reached the state finals, where they competed at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Theatre in Atlanta on March 14.  

“Poetry Out Loud encourages students to explore different perspectives and nurture a sense of empathy,” said Tina Lilly, Executive Director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “Students who compete step outside of their comfort zone, build their self-confidence, and risk an unknown outcome. These skills play a role in anything from job interviews to public speaking to even becoming an entrepreneur.” 

Poetry Out Loud is a national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, which encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization and recitation of the written word. Georgia’s Poetry Out Loud champion will receive $200 from the NEA. Pitra’s school will also be presented with a $500 certificate that will go toward new books. As Poetry Out Loud runner-up, McGee will receive $100 from the NEA, and $200 for new books for her school.

"For me, this program has been a way for me to celebrate one of the things that I love: poetry,” said  Georgia Poetry Out Loud Champion Molly Pitra. “I have always loved poetry because the emotion of poems help connect and portray people better than regular words do. I am looking forward to improving my performance in preparation for Nationals." 

Started in 2005 as a pilot program in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Poetry Out Loud has grown to involve millions of students from across the country. In the last eight years, Georgia’s champions have been awarded more than $45,000 from national and state competitions. Four champions from Georgia have placed in the top three at the national finals in that time, including a first-place win in 2017. 

"The Alliance Theatre is thrilled to administer Poetry Out Loud for the state of Georgia. We are incredibly grateful to the dedicated educators who champion this work within their schools, and we celebrate the unique gifts of every student who participated in the program this year,” said Chris Moses, the Dan Reardon Director of Education and Associate Artistic Director at Alliance Theatre. “As we look ahead to the National Finals, we are wholeheartedly cheering Molly on, and we are honored to be a part of her journey as a young artist." 

If your school would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud next year, please contact [email protected].