Gaithersburg, Md– March 25, 2021 – The Gaithersburg Book Festival, which is taking place virtually this year due to the pandemic, has selected the finalists for its third annual poetry contest for high school students. The students had to write a poem on themes of isolation and/or community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 150 entries poured in from around the region. 

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

●      Adeeb Ansari of Oakton High School (Herndon, Va.; grade 12)

●      Kayden Austin of Advanced Academy of Grace (Fort Meade, Md.; grade 10)

●      Ethan Caldwell of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Vienna, Va.; grade 10)

●      Solange Campos of Poolesville High School (Germantown, Md.; grade 11)

●      Caroline Dinh of Richard Montgomery High School (Potomac, Md.; grade 12)

●      Joy Jiang of Richard Montgomery High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 9)

●      Holly Keegan of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (Potomac, Md.; grade 11)

●      Charlotte Lucas of Walter Johnson High School (Bethesda, Md.; grade 9)

●      Casey Majewski of Rockville High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 12)

●      Kendall Rill of Damascus High School (Gaithersburg, Md.; grade 9)

●      Arushi Singh of Richard Montgomery High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 12)

●      Allison Xu of Walter Johnson High School (Rockville, Md.; grade 9)

The first-, second-, and third-place winners and the fan favorite will be announced on the Festival website Friday, May 14, by 2021 judge Sandra Beasley, a local poet who will select the top three entries.

“These poems are notable for the range of emotions they will evoke in the reader—and the formal techniques they use to shape those emotions,” said Beasley. “ I’m grateful for the reminder that creativity can thrive even in difficult times of fear and isolation; you could argue that’s when we need our creativity most. This is my first time meeting these poets on the page, but it won’t be the last.”

The 12 finalist poems have been posted to the Gaithersburg Book Festival website so visitors can read the entries and vote for their favorite. Fan favorite voting will close on Friday, May 7, at 11 p.m. ET. 

Prizes for first-, second- and third-place winners, provided courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County, are $250, $100 and $50, respectively. The fan favorite winner will receive $25. 

“Like the rest of us, the talented young writers and poets in our region have had to face significant challenges over the last year,” said Jud Ashman, founder of the Festival and Mayor of the City of Gaithersburg.  He added, “We're so proud of how they've channeled all of that adversity into great art, and it makes us all proud to spotlight them 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 2020-21 school year. Additionally, entrants had to reside in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia.

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival

Founded in 2010, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is a celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. It is one of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The 2021 Festival will take place virtually throughout the month of May, featuring author appearances, panel discussions and writing workshops. The Gaithersburg Book Festival also hosts author events in Montgomery County throughout the year as a way to encourage continued appreciation for all things literary. The event is sponsored in part by The David and Mikel Blair Family Foundation. For more information please visit, follow us on Twitter @GburgBookFest or like us on Facebook.

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