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The Santa Clara County Youth Poet Laureate program is youth-centered program to celebrate literacy and self-literacy through poetry and connect young writers to opportunities for performances and community collaborations

Each year, we will accept applications from talented Santa Clara County writers (ages 13-18) to join a community of young poets. The Laureate earns an educational scholarship. The Laureate will, and all the Finalists are invited to, serve as ambassadors for literacy, arts and youth expression with ongoing opportunities for performances, projects, and peer support.

Every applicant will be invited to stay in connection with the SCC Youth Poet Laureate community.   

The Santa Clara County Youth Poet Laureate is an honorary post.

What You Need to Know

The selected poet’s role is to represent and elevate the youth voices of the county that are committed to artistic and literary excellence, civic engagement, and social impact.

Artistic and Literary Excellence:

This is literary work that employs the tools of poetic craft—music, image, metaphor and simile, traditional forms (sonnet, villanelle, ghazal, and so on)—combined with a passionate artistic vision concerned, thematically, with matters of the heart, spirit, and mind; politics; identity; family and relationships; history; love in its many iterations; other art forms; or any aspect of the human experience, often at the intersection of any of the aforementioned, in order to explore and deepen our common humanity.

Civic Engagement and Social Impact:

We seek applications from young people who are committed to the growth and development of their local communities. By “Civic Engagement,” we mean any regular activity, formally or informally sponsored, whereby the YPL applicant can strengthen and promote the quality of life in his or her community or school. By “Social Impact” we mean any examples of praxis, commitment to equity and inclusiveness, activism and the fundamental right of youth to be outspoken. Examples include efforts in political activism, organizing, school participation, and volunteerism, as well as various educational and artistic initiatives.


"I feel that poetry is a way to honor and serve as witness to those challenges that people face in their everyday lives. To me, [poetry] helps … not only in creating a dialogue and trying to raise awareness about certain issues, but for me to work through the angst and the place of frustration and helplessness about those issues so that I can come back and be grounded and remind myself that there are ways to fix them." - ARLENE BIALA, SANTA CLARA COUNTY POET LAUREATE 2016-2017

Applicants must

  • be a Santa Clara County resident (do not have to be a citizen)

  • be between the ages of 13 and 18 as of February 3rd, 2024

  • be available to serve as Laureate for the program year, June 2024 - June 2025:

  • be living locally through the program year

  • not be enrolled in college full-time during the program year

  • Submit this completed application with thoughtful responses; we recommend you keep your answers on a separate document before you finalize and share them here

(Unfortunately, this means many senior high school students are not eligible to apply). Poems will be judged based on Content, Craft, and Voice. If you are entered into the final round, applications will be additionally judged on Leadership and Performance.)


"Be ceremony. Be a lit candle to what blows you." - LORNA DEE CERVANTES

The winner will receive:

  • a $1,000 scholarship

  • Mentorship from established poets 

  • Chance to become the West Regional Youth Poet Laureate and/or the National Youth Poet Laureate

Finalists will also have opportunities to read, share, and publish their work during their term.

Finalists will work with local libraries, community centers, schools, and civic officials.

Why do we need a Youth Poet Laureate Program?

Many youth in Santa Clara County have reported experiencing adversity, abuse, neglect, bullying, violence, and feeling unsafe at school. At the same time, many come from low-income  and working-class families, while struggling with being underhoused in a region that’s witnessing a dramatic increase in housing construction for highly paid workers in the technology industry. Because of the influence of Silicon Valley and high technology causing high rates of poverty in our region, the face of Santa Clara County is changing, as I believe youth are the most ignored and deemed powerless by it.

As the current Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, I believe that our youth have a lot to say to us, each other, and this world.

Studies show that teenagers who participate in youth spoken word programs identify multiple personal and social benefits from their participation. Teen poets develop literate identities; that is, they begin to see themselves as writers and to act on that self-perception. It is my goal during my tenure as Poet Laureate to uplift and learn from the voices of our youth and students.

Youth are a vulnerable population in this current era we are living in--they are the ones staying home to protect us and keep us safe from COVID-19, they are the ones working and contributing to our local and national economies as essential workers, they are at school and meeting with friends through a social media app or computer screen. So much has been taken from them, but their voices will remind us to give back to them what they give us: hope. 

 – Janice Lobo Sapigao, 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate

Have any questions? Email us!

These are the folks who put this all together! 

This program began as a 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate project by Janice Lobo Sapigao.

2021-2022 Team:

Janice Lobo Sapigao

Karla Santiago-Reyes

Keana Aguila Labra

Lesa Medley

Lorenz Dumuk

Mahati Ramakrishnan

Myesha Phukan

Sarah Mohammed

Sophia Smith

Scorpiana Xlent

2020-2021 Team:

Tshaka Campbell

Brandon Luu

Lesa Medley

Amy Meier

Sarah Mohammed

Elizabeth Montelongo

Karla Santiago-Reyes

Janice Lobo Sapigao

Sophia Smith

Scorpiana Xlent

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