WEST ORANGE, NJ – The spoken word will be highlighted at the annual Poetry Out Loud finals at West Orange High School on Jan. 8, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium located on the Pleasant Valley Way side of the campus at 51 Conforti Avenue.

Several-hundred students at West Orange High School participated in the selection process, and the winner of the Poetry Out Loud finals will move on to the regional competition at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Feb. 12.

This year's finalists include:

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Maura Baker (9th grade)

Nia Cesar (9th grade)

Madison Gough (9th grade)

Riley Hahn (9th grade)

Nooha Kawsar (11th grade)

Kai McCall (11th)

Charlie Peterson (9th grade)

Olivia Ridley (11th grade)

Mariana Simpson (10th grade)

Escriptus, the English Honor Society at WOHS, is presenting, organizing and running the event. Judges will include Lee Behlman, Karen Perry, Tynia Thomassie, and Liz Veneziano.

The vision of Poetry Out Loud is described as “a contest that encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, which is organized into local, regional, state and national competitions.