Youth Poet Laureate Program

The Finalists for Oakland's 2016 Youth Poet Laureate will be announced soon!

Meet the judges of this year's Youth Poet Laureate competition.


Photo credit: Mike Moya, Moya Fotografx

2015 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate

Tova Ricardo

I am bonded in eternal marriage to my notebooks and pens.

Seventeen-year-old Tova Ricardo, a junior at Bentley High School, is Oakland’s 2015 Youth Poet Laureate.  Tova began writing poetry in 6th grade and fell in love with the ways that words and characters tie together to spark emotion and controversy inside the reader. Tova soon realized that her first loves were literature and poetry, and knew that she had found the one place where she wouldn’t have to conform to society's expectations. The meeting of pen to paper allows Tova to claim her freedom of expression andthe emotional terrain that surrounds the construction of human identity. Issues of race, gender, sexuality, family dynamics, community, and social stigma crackle like electricity throughout Tova’s work.

The 2014 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, Sophie Elkin, says this about Tova’s work:

People have experienced in their long, tremendous lives a number of fantastic and horrible things, but to be Tova Ricardo, 16 years old with more immaculate passion and blood boiling truth in her little finger than most will see their whole lives is truly a responsibility. Tova’s words will carry through the streets of Oakland and rattle our rib cages as our hearts wrench and scream and cause our skin to chill, but we will never stop listening and craving what comes next. Tova Ricardo will keep my generation alert, on their toes, and ready to speak.

As Youth Poet Laureate, Tova will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and will have opportunities to publish her work and make public appearances.


  • Tova Ricardo, 17, Bentley High School - 2015 Poet Laureate
  • Sophie Elkin, 18, Oakland School for the Arts - 2014 Poet Laureate
  • Obasi Davis, 17, Berkeley High School – 2013 Poet Laureate
  • Stephanie Yun, 18, Skyline High School – 2012 Poet Laureate

About the Youth Poet Laureate Program

Presented by Oakland Public Library, Youth Speaks, the Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by an alliance of community partners representing Oakland’s leading arts, education and community organizations. Scholarship funding is provided by the John diTargiani Fund at Youth Speaks and the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Scholarship administration and academic support is provided by ScholarMatch.

Community Partners: Oakland Unified School District, Write-to-Read and Alameda County Library, Chapter 510, and BeastCrawl.

BOOKING: To book Tova Ricardo for a performance or workshop, please fill out the  BOOKING REQUEST FORM.

For press inquiries, contact Lana Adlawan at or 510-238-7613.