An annual element of our Arts in Education programming is Poetry Out Loud. The Perry County Council of the Arts has administered a regional level competition of Poetry Out Loud since 2008. Open to all high school students in Perry, Juniata, Mifflin, Montour, Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties, Poetry Out Loud is a national memorization and recitation contest administered nationally by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Natalie Popp, Grade 12
Juniata High School, Juniata County

“I am a senior and I enjoy being involved in my school. I am Student Life coordinator and a class officer. I participate in May Day, as well as band and chorus. Music and reading are both very important to me and I incorporate them, not only into my school life, but also my personal life. I also love to bake, and I even have a small baking business for my community.” 

Jordan Knouse, Grade 12
Newport High School, Perry County

“I enjoy singing, reading and playing the flute. Poetry has made a really big impact on my life, and I’m so honored to get to show my appreciation for poetry in this competition.” 

Jordana Steffen, Grade 9
East Juniata High School, Juniata County

“I attended Newport High School before moving to East Juniata. This is my first year reading and reciting poetry at a contest with others. One fun fact about me is in sixth grade, I memorized 300 digits of pi for a contest.”



Jordan Knouse, Newport Senior High School Senior, winner of the 2024 Regional Contest



Read more:

Poetry Out Loud State Contest, March 4, 2024, PA State Museum

Newport English Teacher Elizabeth Helmick and her Poetry Class students at the state competition.

Karl Blischke, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Jordan Knouse at the State Competition.

Jordan Knouse (far left) with the competitors and Karl Blischke on the far right



The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) announced that Sulette Lange, a junior at Hazleton Area Arts and Humanities Academy in Luzerne County, is Pennsylvania’s 2024 Poetry Out Loud (POL) state champion. Lange will represent Pennsylvania in the National Finals, which will be held in Washington, D.C., beginning April 30, 2024.

Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The contest is facilitated through the PCA, working with regional partner organizations.
Each student memorized and prepared three poems selected from print and online poetry anthologies. All 14 students performed in the first two rounds of competition, with the top five competing in the third and final round. Students were judged on voice and articulation, physical presence, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.

Jordan Knouse, Senior at Newport Senior High School

Jordan Knouse, Senior, Newport Senior High School

Jordan Knouse, Senior, Newport Senior High School


Carla Christopher (she/they)

Carla Christopher (she/they) is a poet-activist, cultural competency trainer, and ordained pastor. Carla was the 4th Poet Laureate of York, PA and has toured the globe as a performer, multiply published and award-winning author, public speaker, and workshop facilitator / trainer. She specializes in areas of community-based advocacy and activism, trauma-informed care and mindfulness, cultural competency and creative storytelling. The former York Dispatch OUT and About columnist, host of Culture & Main; York’s Weekly Cultural Showcase on White Rose Community TV and It’s NOT the King’s English Poetry Venue at King’s Courtyard Artist Collective, and co-director of PoemSugar Press / Community Arts Ink which published over 50 books by authors from traditionally marginalized communities in 5 years has been awarded the key to York City twice for her community education initiatives. She continues to facilitate workshops and perform with the poetry-funk fusion band, Groove Ink, when the stars align.

Tony Oliveri

Tony Oliveri, The Poet Coot, is a regular guest at PCCA Coffeehouse. He has several published books of poetry. Tony has volunteered at the Little Buffalo Festival since its inception. He has served on the PCCA Board and was named Volunteer of the Year individually and as a part of The Buffaloes.

Jairee Counterman

Jairee Counterman works in Advancement for the Cumberland County Library System and Foundation. She also currently serves as Co-President of the Rotary Club of Perry County. Past professional experiences include Director of Advancement & Alumni Relations for Carson Long Military Academy; Executive Director of The Nativity School of Harrisburg, Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts, and Neighborhood Center of the United Methodist Church; and Department Chair/Communications Professor at Central Penn College.  Jairee lives in Newport with her spoiled deaf Dalmatian, Marshall.

Jessi Burkholder

Jessi Burkholder is an artist, entrepreneur and homeschooling mother. She takes an active role in community engagement through volunteerism. Recent community projects included initiating the annual event Plein Air Painting in New Bloomfield and collaboration on Holiday House Tour of New Bloomfield, both projects supporting the Bloomfield Public Library. In addition, she has overseen the creation of the Visual Arts Exhibit at the Bloomfield Public Library. She has also been involved with Main Street Committee supporting Perry Hometowns and the Perry County Animal Rescue. Inspiring and connecting others to their own creative source is a central theme to her hospitality business. She continues to find her own inspiration in the natural world around her.

Michael Nailor

Michael Nailor is an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church serving the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.  Before he retired he coached high school students in speech and debate for 41 years.  He taught at Shikellamy High School, Sunbury, Danville High School and Susquehanna University.  Nailor is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Pennsylvania High School Speech League and served as national President of the National Catholic Forensic League.  Currently he resides in Lewisburg while serving churches in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.


Poetry Out Loud starts at the classroom level, with winners advancing to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for his or her school library. A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is awarded annually at the National Finals.

Judges for the state and regional finals include performers, poets and cultural and business leaders from across the state. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) sponsors the statewide competition along with its regional partners and arts organizations.

Poetry Out Loud is part of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA)’s ongoing efforts to foster educational excellence for Pennsylvania’s students through participation in the creative process.

Visit the Poetry Out Loud website for more details:


Jack Strawser, senior at Juniata High School