Tonisha Jones, Middletown High School. Photography by Kathleen Buckalew©
Tonisha Jones, Middletown High School. Photography by Kathleen Buckalew

Tonisha Jones from Middletown High School was crowned the winner of the Delaware state Poetry Out Loud contest for the second year in a row on March 5th, 2009 at the Smyrna Opera House. Twelve students from high schools throughout Delaware competed for the title, enthralling the audience with memorized poetry classics from an anthology of works compiled by The Poetry Foundation. Tonisha’s recitation of Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe, The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks, and Flirtation by Rita Dove earned her high marks with the judges and the top score of the evening.

Ms. Amanda Chas, drama teacher at Middletown High School, spoke highly of her time working with Tonisha, stating, “Accompanied by experiences that have been life changing, Tonisha spent endless hours studying public speakers from across generations and combed through countless poems to find pieces that spoke to her and she could breathe life into. She has uncovered a passion and an outlet for her creativity.”

Delaware’s Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit presented the awards to the contestants at the end of the evening and commented, “What a pleasure it was to hear these poems out loud – to experience poetry’s power through the voices of these young performers. The students channeled the wisdom of the poems they chose, and I was transported.”

For her winning presentation, Tonisha receives $200, an all-expenses-paid trip with a chaperone to Washington and an opportunity to compete for the National Championship April 27-28, 2009. Middletown High School receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The Poetry Foundation will be awarding up to $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends at the National Finals, with at least a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

The second place winner was Julianne Morris from Polytech High School, who will receive $100, with $200 for Polytech High School library.

The state Poetry Out Loud competition, sponsored by the Delaware Division of Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The Division of the Arts congratulates each of the student participants in this year’s competition. Photography by Kathleen Buckalew ©


2009 Poetry Out Loud – Participating Students and High Schools
2009 Poetry Out Loud Group Photo

Delaware State Competition, Tuesday, March 9, 2009 at 7:00 p.m., Smyrna Opera House, Smyrna, Delaware

Cab Calloway School of the Arts

Campus Community School

Concord High School

Dover High School

Middletown High School

Mt. Sophia Academy


Padua Academy

Polytech High School

Sanford School

St. Elizabeth High School

William Penn High School

Wilmington Christian School

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