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Judges for the program are community members who are leaders in the local poetry and writing community, and are invested in education, activism, community organizing and youth development.

Judges also ensure that we select students that represent the program's values of civic engagement, literary excellence, and social impact/social justice. 

See the Judges' Rubric below

(shout out to the National Youth Laureate & Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Programs for their guidance)

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Lindsey Couto-Mohamed


Lindsey Couto-Mohamed is a dedicated high school English teacher from the South Bay. She serves as an advisor and coordinator for various community-oriented programs including the freshman transition program Link Crew, Acts of Random Kindness Club, and Every 15 Minutes. Lindsey mentors teacher candidates from SJSU and SCU, intentionally encouraging diverse representation within the profession. Lindsey’s passionate about promoting social and restorative justice and cultural awareness by creating, sourcing, and implementing multicultural literature curriculum.
Her commitment to student and community support has earned Lindsey a Stanford University Teacher Tribute as well as multiple Teacher of the Year awards at Santa Clara High School, where she is an alumna. 
When she is not teaching, mentoring, or participating in community events, Lindsey is a devoted mother, raising a six-year-old young scholar, activist, and parkour enthusiast; a supportive wife to a fellow-educator; and a daughter, niece, cousin, auntie, sister-in-law, and friend to her inspiring extended circle.

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Poliana Irizarry


I’m on the planning committee for the 2017 Bay Area Queer Zine Fest, part of the South Bay chapter of the Degenderettes, and I am ½ of the South Bay DIY Zine Collective with Sherrise Gutierrez. In addition to organizing zine-making workshops with #sbDIYzc, we inherited the portable zine library from Think and Die Thinking collective. The zines now have a permanent home at the San Jose LGBTQ Youth Space, and the sbDIYzc portable library makes appearances at art fests, punk shows, coffeeshops, college student groups, and even a school library materials fair. Check us out at &
I’ve been making zines for over a decade under the moniker bibliophiliac zines. You can buy my work at – but I am much more interested in trading my zines for yours.

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Sajid A. Khan


Sajid Khan is a son of Santa Clara County, having lived here for most of his life, first in Milpitas, then in San Jose.
He attended San Jose High and then returned to San Jose after college in Berkeley and law school in San Francisco. Sajid raises his two sons here and has worked for the last 12 years as a Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender and currently handles homicide cases. In 2016, his colleagues presented him "The Heart of the Office Award" for his service to the community and the people he represents.


Quynh-Mai Nguyen


Quynh-Mai Nguyen (she/her) is a social artist, community organizer, poet, and musician from San José, CA. She is deeply passionate and involved in creating access and awareness through event programming, visual storytelling, media, and social art for the stories of womxn, people of color, and communities whose narratives go unnoticed.

In 2018, she was named "KQED Arts Bay Brilliant" for her cultural work in the Bay Area. In 2020, she was selected to represent San José as one of twenty 8 80 Cities’ Emerging City Champions to implement projects that show great promise for strengthening her hometown.

She is an alumni of San José State University as well as the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI). She is currently the creative director for Art Builds Community, a small womxn-led public art and planning firm.

Learn more about Quynh-Mai at and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @quynhlatifah

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Matt Ogawa


Matt Ogawa is from the Bay Area. In his full time job he leads an HR Partner team, focused on how to best support, grow and scale teams, at Facebook, Inc.
Matt is also involved in many facets of the San Jose Japantown community serving as a youth advisor for the local youth association and is a performer with the San Jose Taiko group. Matt also serves on the board of directors for the ‘Silicon Valley Creates’ organization and is one of the core members of the statewide New Generation Nikkei Culture Fund. Additionally, Matt spends time leading cross-company efforts with Asian Pacific Islander leaders, non profit organizations, and small businesses on how to support our local community and to help move focus on cultural advancement, support, and amplification.


Yosimar Reyes


Yosimar Reyes is a nationally-acclaimed Poet and Public Speaker. Born in Guerrero, Mexico, and raised in Eastside San Jose, Reyes explores the themes of migration and sexuality in his work. The Advocate named Reyes one of "13 LGBT Latinos Changing the World" and Remezcla included Reyes on their list of "10 Up And Coming Latinx Poets You Need To Know."
His first collection of poetry, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly… was self-published after a collaboration with the legendary Carlos Santana. His work has also been published in various online journals and books including Mariposas: An Anthology of Queer Modern Latino Poetry (Floricanto Press), Queer in Aztlán: Chicano Male Recollections of Consciousness and Coming Out (Cognella Press), and the forthcoming Joto: An Anthology of Queer Xicano & Chicano Poetry (Kórima Press). Reyes was featured in the Documentary, "2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry."
He is a LAMBDA Literary Fellow as well as the recipient of the Undocupoets Fellowship. Reyes previously served as Artist-in-Residence at the media and culture organization, Define American.
Reyes has toured and presented at university campuses across the United States. He is currently working on his one-man show, "Prieto," to premiere in the near future. Reyes holds a B.A in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.

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Landon Smith


Landon Smith was born in LA, but grew up in San Jose, CA. He earned his BA in English from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. He later attended Mills College in Oakland, CA to attain his MA in English Literature and Languages with an emphasis on Black Texts and Social Justice. He has worked with high school students across the Bay Area, teaching writing and social justice. He also worked as the Liberal and Creative Arts Coordinator in the Metro College Success Program at San Francisco State University - a program for first generation, low-income, (primarily) students of color. 

He  is currently a Full-Time Tenure Track professor in the English Department at Chabot College in Hayward, where he serves on the Student Equity Committee, serves as a faculty advisor on the Stay Woke Collective (a student-led social justice organization), and works with RISE - a transitional program that works with previously incarcerated students.

When he was 12, his parents were getting divorced, and his older sister, Alia, wanted him to have an outlet, so she got him his first journal - that is how his lifelong journey with writing emotions was born. Landon has performed poetry in New York, Detroit, Berkeley, Bowery Poetry’s “No Desk Poetry Concert”, and has been the featured poet for SF MoAD’s Open Mic. His poetry has been published in publications such as Cathexis Northwest Press and Silver Pinion Magazine.  He credits much of his growth as a poet to his community at the Patrice Lumumba Writer’s Group, out of the East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland.

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