For young poets today, there is no dearth of programs across the United States that aim to engage them in the art form and encourage them to use poetry as a means of expression, education, and civic participation. Perhaps foremost among those programs are two national initiatives: the National Youth Poet Laureate and the National Student Poet programs.
The National Youth Poet Laureate initiative was founded by Urban Word, an organization that provides free literary arts education and youth development programs in creative writing, spoken word poetry, playwriting, college prep, literature, and hip-hop. In 2008, Urban Word launched the nation’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate program, in New York City, followed by the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate program in 2014. Since then, Urban Word has launched Youth Poet Laureate programs in thirty-five additional cities across the country. In 2017, Urban Word and Youth Speaks teamed up with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities to create the National Youth Spoken Word Ambassador program, the first government recognition program for young spoken word poets. The five spoken word ambassadors were chosen from a pool of youth poet laureates across the country based on their writing skills and their commitment to social justice and civic engagement; they were all finalists in the considerations for a national youth poet laureate.
In April of 2017, Amanda Gorman was named as the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States of America. In april of 2018, Patricia Frazier was named the second National Youth Poet Laureate.
Patricia Frazier was named the 2018 National Youth Poet Laureate.
Artist and activist Patricia Frazier is Chicago's second youth poet laureate. Frazier grew up in the Ida B. Wells Homes in Bronzeville and later in Englewood. She was a two-time finalist of the Louder Than a Bomb spoken word competition while a student at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. Her debut collection of poems, Graphite, is forthcoming next summer from Haymarket Books.
Rukmini Kalamangalam was a finalist for the title of national youth poet laureate.
Rukmini Kalamangalam is a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Texas. Prior to her induction as Houston's youth poet laureate in 2017, she was on Houston's youth slam poetry team, Meta-Four Houston, in 2015 and 2016. in 2018, she was named youth poet laureate of the Southwest and a national youth poet laureate ambassador. Her poem "After Harvey" was set to music by the Houston Grand Opera. She has been published by Houston Chronicle, ABC 13 Visions, Houston Public Media, and The Apprentice Writer. She has been recognized by the Harris County Department of Education and nationally by Scholastic Writing Awards.
Mila Cuda was a finalist for the title of national youth poet laureate.
On June 10, 2017, Mila Cuda was named the Los Angeles County youth poet laureate. She attends Wellesley College in Massachusets.
Cassidy Martin was a finalist for the title of national youth poet laureate.
Cassidy Martin is a junior at Nashville Big Picture High School and presently works at the Nashville Public Library in Madison. In 2016 she was inaugurated as Nashville's second youth poet laureate and in 2017 was inaugurated as the regional spoken word ambassador of the Southeast by Urban Word.
The National Student Poets program, presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting their original work. Each year five exemplary high school poets are selected from among the national medalists in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards by a jury of literary leaders in education and the arts. These students then embark on a year of service as national youth poetry ambassadors.
Read more about the National Student Poets program below.
Alexandra Contreras-Montesano is a senior at Burlington High School in Burlington, Vermont.
Heather Laurel Jensen is a junior at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona.
Darius Atefat-Peckham is a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.
Ariana Smith is a senior at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Daniel Blokh is a senior at Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama.