Poetry Out Loud State Champion


(Boston) – Boston Latin School senior Xiadi Zhai was named Massachusetts’s 2018 Poetry Out Loud (POL) Champion Sunday at Boston’s Old South Meeting House. She bested 23 other finalists to earn the top honor. First runner-up was Helen Rahman, a senior from Masconomet Regional High School, and second runner-up was Tori Milun, a sophomore from Norwell High School.

Zhai receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC where she will compete in the National Finals on April 23-25. The Huntington Theatre Company’s Department of Education has facilitated the Massachusetts chapter of this national contest in partnership with the Mass Cultural Council since its inception 13 years ago. The program is facilitated nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

The top seven finalists also included Joseph Zhang, a sophomore from Algonquin Regional High School, Anotidaishe Chikunya, a junior from Dana Hall School, Samhita Modak, a sophomore from Franklin High School, and Megan Fitzpatrick, a junior from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.

“Culture is vital to empowering a new creative generation,” says Anita Walker, Executive Director of Mass Cultural Council. “We want to ensure that culture plays a major role in the formation of creative, productive, and independent-minded young people in Massachusetts. We thank our partner the Huntington Theatre Company for bringing Poetry Out Loud into the lives of so many young people each year.”

“Poetry Out Loud is a powerful and inspiring program,” says Huntington Theatre Company Interim Co-Director of Education Meg O’Brien. “It provides an opportunity to showcase the creative talents of our state’s young people, and to celebrate the power and diversity of the spoken word. It’s an honor to work with the Mass Cultural Council each year, and it’s notable that the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation work to make this program free to all students and teachers in Massachusetts.”

More than 22,700 students participated in classroom and school-wide contests at 90 schools – the highest number of schools to have ever participated in POL Massachusetts. This year Massachusetts ranked 2nd in the nation for number of students participating in Poetry Out Loud, 3rd in the nation for number of teachers participating, and 5th in the nation for number of schools participating. This is the eighth year in a row Massachusetts has achieved a top-5 national ranking for student, school, and/or teacher participation. 86 winners from the school level advanced to semi-final contests in Boston, Framingham, Springfield, and Cape Cod on March 3 and 4.

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national recitation contest run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating self-confidence and an appreciation of students’ literary heritage as they take poetry from the page to the stage. Since its inception, POL has inspired more than 3.6 million high school students from 14,000 schools across the country to discover and appreciate both classic and contemporary poetry. The NEA and Poetry Foundation partner with state arts agencies in all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands to support POL. Poetry Out Loud is a free program for schools, and all state contests are free and open to the public.

Learn more about Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts at

#          #          #

About the Huntington Theatre Company:
The Huntington Theatre Company is Boston’s leading professional theatre and one of the region’s premier cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Huntington brings together superb local and national talent and produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions. The Huntington runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington has long been an anchor cultural institution of Huntington Avenue, the Avenue of the Arts, and will remain so on a permanent basis with plans to convert the Huntington Avenue Theatre into a first-rate, modern venue with expanded services to audiences, artists, and the community. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit

About the Mass Cultural Council:
The Mass Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. The Mass Cultural Council is committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.

© 2021 Huntington Theatre Company. All rights reserved | Trouble viewing this site? Please download Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.