About 20 students across Louisiana competed in the state Poetry Out Loud contest in March, and Zachary High senior Kyla Bates, Louisiana’s 2015 state champion, won first place again this year, advancing to the Poetry Out Loud finals.

Bates received an award of $200 and an all expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she’ll compete for the national championship. Zachary High received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry by offering educational materials and a recitation competition to high schools across the country, a news release said.

“Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure,” said Zachary High drama teacher Jen Masterson. “Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to state and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C.”

Bates, 18, won all levels and will compete for $50,000 in awards and school stipends in April.

Some 365,000 students from more than 2,300 high schools took part in the 2014-15 Poetry Out Loud program. At the recent state finals in Baton Rouge, contestants recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems.

The competition is presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and state arts agencies and enables youth to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

The Louisiana Division of the Arts is the state partner for the annual competition, which is free and open to all students.