*CORRECTION: The competition will be held in City Hall, 701 E. Broadway. Daniella Rele of Battle High School also will compete. No one from Helias Catholic High School is participating. An earlier version of this article had a wrong location for the competition, excluded Rele and included Helias.
COLUMBIA — For many, public speaking can be terrifying. For nine students in mid-Missouri, public speaking skills will be put to the test in a regional memorization and recitation contest on Wednesday. It's part of the national Poetry Out Loud competition.
*In partnership with the The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs will sponsor the regional competition from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday in City Hall, 701 E. Broadway. The event is free and open to the public.
**Nine students from central Missouri will represent their high schools: Boonville, Cole Camp, Hickman, Battle and Rock Bridge high schools, Columbia Independent School; Jefferson City Home Educators, Lighthouse Preparatory Academy and School of the Osage.
**Representing Columbia schools are Sophia Casto from Hickman, Sara Ashbaugh from Rock Bridge, Daniella Rele from Battle and Chris Melnyk from Columbia Independent.
Whoever wins Wednesday will go on to represent the city of Columbia in the state competition March 13 in Jefferson City. State winners will compete in the April 28 to 30 national competition in Washington, D.C.
Each school has its own Poetry Out Loud coordinator. Rock Bridge's Kathryn Fishman-Weaver said students start at the classroom level. To prepare, they must read, analyze, interpret and memorize three poems. Students are judged on their interpretation and ability to perform.
The competition requires close reading and practice, she said.
Hickman coordinator Jonathan McFarland said students recite poems by notable poets, not personal works.
The Office of Cultural Affairs has coordinated with the Poetry Out Loud competition since 2007, Sarah Dresser, program specialist in the office, said.
The judges are MU doctoral students Austin Segrest and Anne Barngrover and Addison Myers, a member of the Commission on Cultural Affairs and a former theater professor at Stephens College.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.