A record 49 Connecticut high schools have registered to participate in the 13th annual Poetry Out Loud (POL) national recitation contest, according to the Connecticut Office of the Arts, which stages the program in partnership with Connecticut Humanities. Supported by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and new grants from the SBM Charitable Foundation and the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Fairfield County has 11 high schools participating in this year's competition: Bethel High School, Danbury, High School, Darien High School, Green Farms Academy, Greenwich High School, Joel Barlow High School in Redding, Newtown High School, Ridgefield High School, Stamford, Staples High School in Westport, Westhill High School in Stamford, and Wilton High School. For a complete list of participating high schools, visit cthumanities.org\/c4B\/pol\/. The schools are now holding classroom workshops with visiting poet-teachers to prepare students for classroom and then school-wide poetry contests. The winners advance to a state championship competition on March 4, 2017, at Cheney Hall in Manchester. The Connecticut State Champion will advance to the National Finals, which will take place April 24-26, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Connecticut's 2016 POL Champion was Emily Saunders from RHAM High School in Hebron. She was one of more than 317,000 students from 2,300 high schools nationwide who took part in the Poetry Out Loud program during the last school year. "Poetry Out Loud empowers students to claim their voices through poetry, often finding elements of their own life experiences and feelings articulated in the poems they choose," said RHAM High School English teacher Mary Rose Meade. "I love to see students who never even thought about poetry becoming engaged and inspired by participation in Poetry Out Loud." The NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide state arts agencies with free, standards\u2010based curriculum materials. These include an online poetry anthology containing more than 800 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher's guide, lesson plans, posters, and video and audio on the art of recitation. These resources are available at poetryoutloud.org. Poetry Out Loud Awards Students who participate in the official Poetry Out Loud program are eligible to compete in the state and National Finals in 2016\u201017. Each state champion will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to enable him or her to compete for the national championship. The state champion's school also receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends at the National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion. For more information on Poetry Out Loud, visit poetryoutloud.org. About Connecticut Humanities Connecticut Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and administrator of the Connecticut Center for the Book. Through its website and social media channels, CTH highlights cultural and educational events and is an advocate for the humanities. The organization also manages and develops content for ConnecticutHistory.org, promotes literature and reading through its Book Voyagers community workshops for families, and administers Connecticut's Poetry Out Loud program, in conjunction with the Connecticut Office of the Arts. Visit cthumanities.org. About Office of the Arts The Connecticut Office of the Arts envisions a world where the arts, in all forms, are embedded in everyday life. COA animates a culture of creativity across Connecticut by supporting arts making and arts participation for all people. Equity, inclusion and access involving all populations are critical to the vitality of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. We are committed to supporting and fully engaging diverse members of our communities in arts policy, practice, and decision making. Continually changing demographics invite opportunity for responsible and responsive social change by attracting new perspectives that connect minds to a vision and hands to a purpose through the arts. The Office is funded by the State of Connecticut and the National Endowment for the Arts. Learn more by visiting cultureandtourism.org.