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Blairsville Student Named Poetry Out Loud Regional Champion

Joseph KukulaBlairsville High School senior Joseph Kukula was named winner of the ArtsPath regional competition for the 2014 Poetry Out Loud competition held at IUP on Monday, February 17. Kukula competed against two other finalists and now advances to represent the ArtsPath region at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg on March 10.

Joseph will be one of 14 Pennsylvania regional champions who will compete for a chance to advance to the national finals held in April in Washington, D.C. The others competing in this regional competition, chosen from dozens of competitors from each school, include runner-up Lily Brubaker, a senior at Dubois Area High School; and Levente Tarr, a junior at the Kiski School.

Joseph won reciting “The Rain” by Robert Creeley, “The Cross of Snow” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and “The Pomegranate and the Big Crowd” by Albert Rios.

At Blairsville, Joseph recently worked on establishing a new online version of the school newspaper, the Claw, where he is also a staff writer. He received the designation of National Merit Finalist this year and awaits the selection for the final level of national merit scholarship this spring. He enjoys playing guitar, singing, and songwriting and regularly performs on community benefit concerts.

Currently on the distinguished honor roll, he plans to major in English and will be enrolling this Fall in the Robert E. Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Joseph’s mother, Marilyn Kukula, is a web writer/editor on the Web Team in the office of Communications and Marketing at IUP.

Judges for the ArtsPath regional final included Laural Johnson Black, an associate professor of English at IUP and published author; Carrie Cole, an assistant professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at IUP; Tanya Heflin, an assistant professor of English at IUP; Jennifer Matos, a third-year student in the Literature and Criticism doctoral program at IUP; Rebecca Slak, executive director of the Indiana Arts Council; and Helen Taylor, the instruction/outreach librarian at the Indiana Free Library.

Poetry Out Loud 2014 Participants and DignatariesAlso in attendance at the competition was IUP President Michael Driscoll and the executive director for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Philip Horn, who presented the champion’s certificate to Joseph.

Music for the evening was provided by IUP music students Nick Adams, bass, and Andrew Millikin, piano. Nick is a senior music education major and active performer in the region, and Andrew is a junior pino performance major with an interest in jazz.

Presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about significant works of poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Pennsylvania’s contest structure is presented each year by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and organized through a network of arts-in-education partners across the state, including ArtsPath. The 2014 national finals will be held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on April 28–30.

The local competition is organized by ArtsPath, a program of the College of Fine Arts and the Lively Arts at IUP, providing arts-in-education services to students in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana, and Jefferson counties. It has provided these services to over 3,000 people each year since 2001. ArtsPath is led by Jeff Wacker, associate director of arts-in-education services for the Lively Arts.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is a state agency under the Governor’s Office. Its mission is to foster the excellence, diversity, and vitality of the arts in Pennsylvania and to broaden the availability and appreciation of those arts throughout the state.

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