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Hiba Loukssi

Xenia Student Wins 2023 Poetry Out Loud State Finals

A new Poetry Out Loud (POL) State Champion has been named after nine Ohio high school students competed for the title on Friday, March 10, 2023, in WOSU Public Media’s Ross Community Room.

After three rounds of competition, Hiba Loukssi—a senior at Xenia High School in Xenia, Ohio—was named the 2023 POL State Champion during Ohio’s 18th annual State Finals.

As the winner, Loukssi received a cash prize of $200, and her school library will also receive $500 to support future learning. Additionally, Loukssi will represent Ohio at the national competition May 8-10, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Students from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C., will compete for a total prize pool of $50,000. The National Champion will receive a grand prize of $20,000.

Loukssi’s winning performance included the following poems: “Author’s Prayer” by Ilya Kaminsky; “There Are Birds Here” by Jamaal May; and “The Paradox” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

“This was our first all-girl State Finals, and I am so proud of the young women who represented their schools and regions of the state so well,” said Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Donna S. Collins. “Arts education makes a significant impact on students’ learning, and Poetry Out Loud is a fantastic example of how the arts can instill confidence through public speaking and curiosity through the study of great poetry.”

Joining Loukssi (right) as a top three finalist are Anabanel Anne (center), a freshman from the Columbus School for Girls, in second place, and Amanda Braig (left), a junior at McNicholas High School in Cincinnati, in third place.

In recognition of their achievement, each of the top three finalists received a work of art made by Cleveland artist Michael Gill which incorporated a poem by Marcus Jackson. Born and raised in Toledo and now residing in Columbus, Jackson teaches in the MFA programs at the Ohio State University and Queens College of Charlotte, North Carolina. Jackson read several of his original poems at the finals.

Ohio Arts Council Board member Peter Lawson Jones emceed the evening event. He consistently praised the high level of preparation each of the finalists brought to the competition and congratulated them on their exemplary performances.

The three guest judges for the 2023 State Finals were poets Terry Hermsen, Rose Smith, and Cynthia Amoah.

A complete list of 2023 POL State Finals participants follows:

  • Emily McNeal, senior, Stage Left Players 
  • Anabanel Anne, freshman, Columbus School for Girls 
  • Tara Gontkovic, junior, Westerville Central High School 
  • Tatum L’Heureux, junior, Nelsonville-York High School  
  • Jozlyn Bew, sophomore, Federal Hocking High School  
  • Hiba Loukssi, senior, Xenia High School 
  • Trista Boeke, senior, Piqua High School 
  • Amanda Braig, junior, McNicholas High School 
  • Rhianna Sell, sophomore, Toledo Early College High School 

The nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition, Poetry Out Loud is presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council. The Poetry Out Loud program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry, master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence, and study their literary heritage. 
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more about NEA.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Andrew Paa, Communications Strategist
The featured image is of Hiba Loukssi. All photos are courtesy of Terry Gilliam Photography.

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