PRESS RELEASE: March 3, 2020
FROM: Florida Humanities

Keith Simmons, Communications Director
Phone: (727) 873-2011 | Cell: (813) 376-0182
Email: [email protected]

Blake High School Senior
Wins Florida Finals for Poetry Out Loud

St. Petersburg, Florida (March 3, 2020)–Zhaedyn Hodge Sigars, a Senior at Blake High School in Tampa, successfully defended his title as State Champion for Florida’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Earning the title for the second year in a row, Mr. Sigars will represent Florida in the 2020 national competition on April 27, in Washington D.C.

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. The event is held annually around the country. Florida Humanities is the principal facilitator of the event in Florida, with support from the Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Department of State; The  National Endowment for the Humanities; The National Endowment for the Arts; and the Poetry Foundation. This school year, over 10,000 students participate in local school competitions. School champions are then invited to the state finals.

This year’s competition took place on the campus of USF St. Petersburg in the University Student Center’s Grand Ballroom on February 29, 2020. Mrs. Cassandra Curry, a creative writing teacher at Blake High School, served as Zhaedyn’s teacher and coach in preparation for the competition.

Each performer learns three poems. During the competition, all performers recite their first two poems through two rounds of competition. Judges select the top ten performers based on voice and articulation; stage presence; dramatic appropriateness; and accuracy. The top ten performers then recite their third poem and judges award a first, second, and third place.

Mr. Sigars performed the poems “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley; “From the People, Yes,” by Carl Sandburg; “Momma Said,” Calvin Forbes. An aspiring poet, Mr. Sigars plans to attend college this fall at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. His goal is to earn an MFA in Creative Writing before publishing his own poetry. Mr. Sigars cites The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison as a significant inspiration. “I love it because it explores and examines established standards of beauty and the self-loathing,” said Sigars. “And it also explores the anxiety and other effects it may have on those who do not possess and can not obtain.”

Ava Johnson, a senior at Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Broward County, placed second in the competition. She performed the poems “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann; “Thoughtless Cruelty,” by Charles Lamb; and “Dream Song 14,” John Berryman. Kinsey Campbell, a junior at The First Academy in Orange County, placed third in the competition. She performed the poems “The Paradox,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar; “Love Song,” by Dorothy Parker; “Caged Bird,” Maya Angelou. 

About Florida Humanities
Florida Humanities, the statewide, nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is dedicated to preserving, promoting and sharing the history, literature, culture and personal stories that offer Floridians a better understanding of themselves, their communities and their state. Since 1971, Florida Humanities has awarded more than $8 million in support of statewide cultural resources and public programs strongly rooted in the humanities. These programs preserve Florida’s diverse history and heritage, promote civic engagement and community dialogue, and provide opportunities to reflect on the future of Florida. Learn more at

About Poetry Out Loud
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3.8 million students and 60,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Learn more at

The members of the 2019 judging panel were: Silvia Curbelo, an independent poet, and writer; Gloria Muñoz, a creative writing professor at Eckerd College; Dennis Rodney, an independent poet and contributor to WMNF’s “Poetry Is;” Ann Schoenacher, a former staff member of Florida Humanities and retired English teacher; and Dr. Helen Wallace, Poet Laureate for the City of St. Petersburg.