Gaithersburg Book Festival Announces 2023 High School Poetry Contest Finalists

by MCS Staff

The Gaithersburg Book Festival has selected the finalists for its 5th annual poetry contest for high school students. More than 150 entries poured in from around the region from students who wrote poems on themes of diversity or inclusion.

The finalists, listed in alphabetical order with the school they attend, city in which they reside and grade, are:

  • Mikaela Aviles – Charles J. Colgan Senior High School (Manassas, Va.; grade 12)
  • Harshita Chinta – Poolesville High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 10)
  • Abigail Cho – Clarksburg High School (Clarksburg, Md.; grade 9)
  • Emily Egna – Annapolis High School (Davidsonville, Md.; grade 12)
  • Arianna Harapko – Annapolis High School (Edgewater, Md.; grade 9)
  • Zora Jakes – Annapolis High School (Odenton, Md.; grade 9)
  • Joy Jiang – Richard Montgomery High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 11)
  • Beatrix Maynard – Annapolis High School (Edgewater, Md.; grade 10)
  • Gloria Owolabi – Annapolis High School (Hanover, Md.; grade 9)
  • Lily Scheckner – Montgomery Blair High School (Silver Spring, Md.; grade 10)
  • Hazael Smith – Poolesville High School (Dickerson, Md.; grade 9)
  • Haille Treadaway – Annapolis High School (Brooklyn Park, Md.; grade 12)

The first-, second-, and third-place winners and the fan favorite will be announced at the Festival on Saturday, May 20 by Sara R. Burnett, a local poet who will be presenting at the 2023 festival and who will select the top three entries.

It is a great privilege to read these exceptional poems penned by young poets,” said Burnett. “It will be hard to choose just three, but overall it speaks to the wealth of talent and creativity among everyone who submitted.”

The 12 finalist poems have been posted to the Gaithersburg Book Festival website so visitors can read the entries and vote for their favorite starting on March 24. Fan favorite voting will close on Monday, May 15 at 11 p.m. EDT.

Prizes for first-, second- and third-place winners are $250, $100 and $50, respectively. The fan favorite winner will receive $25.

“The talent of student poets in our region is clear year after year,” said Jud Ashman, founder of the Festival and Mayor of the City of Gaithersburg. “In writing on the themes of diversity and/or inclusion, they have demonstrated the depth of their empathy and commitment to our diverse community. We are so proud to spotlight all of these budding artists at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.”

To be eligible for the poetry contest, students had to be enrolled in grades 9-12 at a public or private school, or be in a homeschool program, for the 2022-23 school year. Additionally, entrants had to reside in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia.

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. One of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the 2023 Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, at Bohrer Park at Summit Hall Farm (506 S. Frederick Ave.) in Gaithersburg, Md. Activities will include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a Children’s Village; onsite sales of new and used books; literary exhibitors, food, drink, ice cream and more. FREE admission and accessible shuttle will be available from Shady Grove Metro and Lakeforest Mall. The Gaithersburg Book Festival also hosts author events in Montgomery County throughout the year to encourage continued appreciation for all things literary. The Gaithersburg Book Festival is sponsored in part by its official bookseller, Politics & Prose, and title sponsor, The Carnegie at Washingtonian Center. For more information please visit, follow us on Twitter @GburgBookFest or like us on Facebook and Instagram


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