SCAC announces eight competitors for Poetry Out Loud state finals

Finalists from Aiken, Boiling Springs, Charleston, Greenville, & Myrtle Beach

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Eight South Carolina high school students will compete in the state finals for Poetry Out Loud—an annual, nationwide recitation contest—scheduled to be held virtually on March 6, 2021.

The S.C. Arts Commission (SCAC) coordinates Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina, partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the competition to the state’s high schools.

Rather than be completely upended like so much else in the 2020/2021 school year, Coordinator Bonita Peeples arranged a competition with a different structure. In lieu of class or school competitions, students in grades 9-12 were invited to submit videos to be judged in twin regional competitions.

Both regionals yielded four finalists to compete on Saturday, March 6, 2021 in the virtual state finals:

  • Emily Allison (Greenville High School in Greenville)
  • Meenakshi Balachandran (Calvary Christian School in Myrtle Beach)
  • Simone Cory (James Island Charter School in Charleston)
  • Teagan Domm (Academic Magnet High School in Charleston)
  • Anna Matson (Aiken High School in Aiken)
  • Pagelyn Smalls (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)
  • Caleb Xiao (Spartanburg Day School in Boiling Springs)
  • Jazmine Vivas Young (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)

Adjudicating the virtual finals will be veteran Poetry Out Loud judges Al Black, Ray McManus, Michelle Reese, and Kimberly J. Simms. Each is an accomplished poet residing in South Carolina dedicated to training the next generation of poets.

The winner of the state finals will receive a $200 prize and get to represent South Carolina in the national finals competition for the chance to win a $20,000 first prize. Cancelled last year in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, the 202 national finals will be held but virtually. Find out more about the national competition here.


The initial version of this post incorrectly identified Academic Magnet High School in Charleston as “Academy” Magnet High School.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC) is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued, and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences.

A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key areas: arts education, community arts development, and artist development. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on social media.