Dekalb County student Molly Pitra earns first place in the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state championship
Dekalb County student Molly Pitra, center, earned first place in the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state championship. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Alliance Theatre

The Alliance Theatre has announced that Molly Pitra, a junior from St. Pius X Catholic High School in DeKalb County, earned first place in the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state championship.

Pitra was named as winner of the state finals after competing against 14 other students at Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Theatre on March 14.

As the victor in the state championship, Pitra will receive a $200 cash prize and her school will be presented with a $500 certificate, which will go towards acquiring new books. Pitra also gets the opportunity to represent Georgia at the upcoming Poetry Out Loud national finals.

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

Pitra beat out fellow Dekalb County student Amaya Ariel McGee in this year’s state contest. McGee, who attends DeKalb School of the Arts, garners a $100 cash prize and $200 for her school (towards new books) for being named runner-up.

In the past eight years, the Poetry Out Loud competition has awarded over $45,000 to national and state champions from Georgia. During that time, four Georgia participants have placed top three at nationals, including a first-place finish in 2017.

Poetry Out Loud began back in 2005 as a pilot program in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since the program’s inception, it has grown to involve millions of participating students from all over the U.S.

The aim of the national program is to inspire high school students to learn about poetry through memorization and recitation of the written word, according to a release.

“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.”

For more information on the annual poetry competition, head to the Poetry Out Loud website.

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