WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Urban Word, the founding organization of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, will be celebrating the Regional winners and National Youth Poet Laureate Finalists and announcing the official winner on May 20th at 6pm at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate will be announced, following performances from the finalists, the current National Youth Poet Laureate, Alexandra Huyhn, and special guest performances by local DC Youth Poet Laureates. Hosting this event will be Mahogany L. Browne, Kennedy Center Next 50 Leader, Urban Word Artistic Director, and the inaugural Poet-In-Residence of Lincoln Center, NYC. Opening remarks will be given by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Kennedy Center Vice President & Artistic Director of Social Impact.

The finalists were chosen from a field of more than 65 Youth Poets Laureate from across the United States. All of the poets were judged on their artistic excellence, as well as their commitment to civic engagement, youth leadership and social impact. This year’s Regional Winners and National Finalists are Alyssa Gaines (Indianapolis, IN), Jessica Kim (Los Angeles, CA), Isabella Ramirez (South Florida), and Elizabeth Shvarts (Staten Island, NYC).

After Amanda Gorman’s electrifying performance at the Presidential Inauguration, the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, from which Gorman was the inaugural winner in 2017, has captured the national spotlight. This movement identifies and celebrates our nation’s top teen poets who are committed to changing the world with their words.

This year’s judges who determined the winner included leadership from Youth Poet Laureate Programs across the national network, including Katherine Lamb (Austin Library Foundation, Austin TX), Erin Roussel (City of Asylum, Pittsburg, PA), Stanley Richardson (Artspeaks, North Central, FL), Lauren Hall (Voices Corp., Indianapolis, IN) and award-winning poet and educator F. Douglas Brown.

“These poets are truly awe-inspiring as writers and artists. Their craft, the way that they approach difficult subject matter, and the deftness with which they assert their politics is spellbinding,” says National Youth Poet Laureate Founder, Michael Cirelli, “but what is even more remarkable, is that these teen writers have already committed their lives to making their communities and the world a better place. These are the changemakers that are rewriting our futures.”

This culminating event will conclude with the awarding of the 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate. A closing celebration at BusBoys & Poets- Brookland location will follow at 9pm.

More information about the 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate Commencement can be found at youthlaureate.org/2022.

Media requests for interviews and assets can be made to safiya@safiyasimmons.com. Photos of the National Youth Poet Laureate finalists are available upon request.

The 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate finalist bios are below:

Alyssa Gaines, Midwest Region- Indianapolis, Indiana

Alyssa Gaines is the first-ever Indianapolis Youth Poet Laureate. Her work has been featured in Scholastic’s “Best Teen Writing,” the Indianapolis Recorder, and was published by Teach for America. She is a leader in her high school and serves as the President of the Black Student Union, the Poetry Club Founder and President, and the President of the nonpartisan Young Democrats Club. Her leadership also extends to work with Purdue University and the Center for Leadership Development. She also performs in numerous theater productions and is the captain of the lacrosse team.

Jessica Kim, West Region- La Canada, California

Jessica Kim is a disabled student and the 2021-2022 Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate. She has won writing awards from Scholastic, Columbia College, Young Arts, the Pushcart Prize, the Pulitzer Center, and was awarded the Foyal Young Poet of the Year in 2021. She is also a Presidential Volunteer Service Award winner and has won awards and scholarships from the National Coding Foundation, HOBY Youth Leadership and the Global Peace Resilience Fund. She is passionate about social justice and promoting unheard voices through writing.

Isabella Ramirez, South Region- Davie, Florida

Isabella Ramirez is a National Student Poet and the 2021-2022 South Florida Youth Poet Laureate. She has won awards from Scholastic, YoungArts and the Jason Taylor Foundation, and her work will be featured in the PBS series “Poetry in America.” As a freshman at Columbia University, she works as a staff writer for the Columbia Daily Spectator, and serves on their DEI Committee. She has collaborated on projects for the NFL Hall of Fame, and was awarded both a National Hispanic Scholar and National Gold Medalist in Journalism.

Elizabeth Shvarts, Northeast Region- Staten Island, New York

Elizabeth Shvarts is a poet, youth leader and the 2021-2022 New York City Youth Poet Laureate. She founded the organization, Bridge to Literacy, in partnership with UNESCO that serves youth in 6 continents. She has won awards and honors from the Rise Challenge, the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Voice of Democracy, and the World Literacy Foundation, among others. She has also participated in programs at the Iowa Writers Studio, Notre Dame Leadership Seminar and National Geographic Youth Engagement Program.

About the National Youth Poet Laureate Program

The National Youth Poet Laureate Program, an initiative of Urban Word, celebrates our nation’s top poets who are committed to artistic excellence, civic engagement and social impact. Founded in New York City in 2008, the Youth Poet Laureate Program partners with local and national literary arts organizations across the country to elevate youth voices at the forefront of social change. Program partners and supporters include the Academy of American Poets, the Library of Congress, the Poetry Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Youth Poets Laureate have touched every media outlet and major stage in the country including at the White House and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. To learn more about our work or to start a program in your region, please visit youthlaureate.org.

The home organization of this year’s finalists include Voices Corp. (Indianapolis, IN), the Jason Taylor Foundation (South Florida), Beyond Baroque (Los Angeles) and Urban Word NYC (New York City).

About Urban Word

Urban Word elevates youth voices as leaders at the intersection of the literary arts and civic engagement. Through the transformative power of the written and spoken word, Urban Word provides young, creative voices, often those that are marginalized, the tools, training, and platforms to rewrite the narratives that shape their lives and to own their agency in directing the future of their communities.​ Headquartered in New York, Urban Word offers online and in-person open mics, creative writing and college prep workshops, competitions, fellowships, and more. As one of the oldest and most comprehensive youth literary arts organizations in the United States, Urban Word and its national community of poets, activists, and educators, has built and continues to lead the youth spoken word movement. Learn more at urbanword.org.


Safiya Simmons