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Classical High Student Wins State Arts Council's 'Poetry Out Loud' Rhode Island State Final

Classical High School student Amber Johnson took top honors at Saturday afternoon's Poetry Out Loud state finals at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, sponsored locally by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and VSA arts of Rhode Island. As Rhode Island state winner, Johnson will go on to compete at the national finals in Washington, DC in April.

(see link to photo of Poetry Out Loud winner Amber Johnson - below)

Poetry Out Loud is a program sponsored nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and The Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Organized along the lines of the national spelling bee, Poetry Out Loud promotes competitions at the high school level throughout the country, with local winners going on to state finals, and from there to the national championship competition.

Over 900 students participate in the program In Rhode Island, the following schools participated in the state finals: Burrillville High School in Burrillville; Classical High School and Hope Arts High School in Providence; Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth; Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Charles E. Shea High School in Pawtucket; West Warwick High School in West Warwick; Providence Country Day School in East Providence; and Johnston High School in Johnston. In all, 914 Rhode Island high school students participated in the program this year, more than double the number that participated in last year's competition.

In addition to Amber Johnson, the following students received awards at Saturday afternoon's competition: Rachel Pontbriand from the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Pawtucket received the second place prize and Kerry Klemmer from Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth was the third place winner.

First place winner Amber Johnson from Providence will receive a $200 prize check and an all-expense-paid trip to compete at the National Finals on April 28th in Washington, DC. Classical High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second prize winner, Rachel Pontbriand from the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Pawtucket, will receive a $100 prize check, and her school will receive $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

[In attached group photo the winners (from left to right) are Rachel Pontbriand, 2nd place; Kerry Klemmer, 3rd place; and Amber Johnson, 1st place. In the rear are (from left to right) Brian Platt, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator and Rick Benjamin, one of the judges).

About the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information on RISCA and its programs, please visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

About The Poetry Foundation The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

Related links

  • Department or agency: Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
  • Online:
  • Release date: 03-01-2009

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