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Whitefield Academy High School Student Wins Georgia’s 2017 Poetry Out Loud State Championship

Will represent Georgia at National Finals in Washington, April | 03/20/2017


ATLANTA, March 20, 2017 —The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) announced today the winner of the 2017 Poetry Out Loud state competition. Samara Huggins, a senior at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Ga., took home the first place prize at the state finals. Samara will represent Georgia at the national finals in Washington, D.C., April 24-26.

“GCA is deeply committed to the role of the arts in education and we are proud to partner with both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Atlanta History Center to create access to Poetry Out Loud for Georgia’s high school students,” said Karen Paty, executive director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “Poetry Out Load is a remarkable program that introduces students to exceptional works of poetry while also building confidence in public speaking – a critical skill for future success.”

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 receives $200 from the NEA. The school will also be presented with a $500 certificate that will go toward new books. The Poetry Out Loud runner-up, Valyn Turner, a junior at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, Ga., receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for new books for her school.

“After four years, the thrill and enjoyment that I get out of participating in Poetry Out Loud has only grown,” said 2017 Poetry Out Loud winner Samara Huggins. “I am truly humbled by this experience. Each competitor at the state finals was skilled, which made my victory an immense surprise. I cannot wait to see what is waiting for me in Washington D.C.”

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.

This is the ninth year that Atlanta History Center’s Margaret Mitchell House has been selected by Georgia Council for the Arts to coordinate the state’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Georgia’s participation includes:

  • 89 schools in 37 counties.
  • More than 17,000 students participated.
  • Involves more than 450 Georgia teachers.

“Poetry Out Loud is an important part of Atlanta History Center programming, opening up to the public what the world of the arts has to offer,” said Emily Cobb, Poetry Out Loud State Coordinator at the Atlanta History Center. “The Atlanta History Center strives to discover the past in places, events, and people in real and personal ways and POL is a great method for that.  When the students recite great poetry they connect the audience with these poems and authors, moving them with their recitation to appreciate the poetry.”

If your school would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud, please contact Emily Cobb at or call 404.814.4017.  For more information about Poetry Out Loud, please visit

About Georgia Council for the Arts

Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) is a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development whose mission is to cultivate the growth of vibrant, thriving Georgia communities through the arts.  GCA provides grant funding, programs and services statewide that support the vital arts industry, preserve the state’s cultural heritage, increase tourism and nurture strong communities.  Funding for Georgia Council for the Arts is provided by appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

About the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House

Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is an all-inclusive, thirty-three-acre destination featuring the Atlanta History Museum, one of the nation’s largest history museums; two historic houses, the 1928 Swan House and the 1860 Smith Family Farm; the Centennial Olympic Games Museum; the Kenan Research Center; the Grand Overlook event space; Chick-Fil-A at the Coca-Cola Café, a museum shop, and the Goizueta Gardens, featuring 22 acres of gardens, walkways, paths and trails. In addition, the History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House located in Midtown Atlanta.



Emily Murray
Georgia Department of Economic Development