Apply to the OYPL Program

Apply to the OYPL Program

Join our community of poets!

You have questions? We have answers.

Applications are open!

We hope you'll apply and encourage any young Oakland poets (age 13-18) to apply.

Being part of the OYPL program means being part of a community of young poets and leaders that learn from each other, grow together, and share their truths with audiences in Oakland and beyond! Whether you are a practiced performance poet or are just learning to get your thoughts out in your notebook, this program is for you.

You can download a PDF version of our FAQs here.

You'll also find all these questions and answers here on this page below.

General OYPL FAQs

  • The Laureate represents Oakland and its youth at public and private events and is a model for other youth. They also share their experiences with the press and through blogs, videos, and social media.   The Laureate will have the opportunity to develop their own poet-leader project. Everyone who applies will be invited to enter into a community of young poets and youth advocates.
  • You are eligible to apply if:

    • you live in Oakland
    • are between the ages of 13 and 18 on the day the application is due
    • be available to serve as Laureate for the program year, which means that you will live locally the whole year and won't be enrolled in college full-time during the whole  year (June - June)        
  • Yes! You can submit the application on behalf of a young person as long as you can provide complete information for the nominee(s), including 3 poems, name of an Adult Sponsor and accurate contact information.

    You may nominate up to 3 students.

    Please confirm their ability to complete the program year (June - June) should they advance to the final round.

  • Email oypl@oaklandlibrary.org or call the Oakland Public Library at (510) 761-7636.

  • You may only apply if you currently live in Oakland (though you can attend school in other towns).

    You may be eligible to apply for the Alameda County Youth Poet Laureate program.

    While we aren’t able to expand the contest to other cities right now, we welcome interested agencies from other cities to contact us with questions.

Contact Us:

oypl@oaklandlibrary.org
(510) 761-7636

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OYPL Application FAQs

  • You are eligible to apply if:

    • you live in Oakland
    • are between the ages of 13 and 18 on the day the application is due
    • be available to serve as Laureate for the program year, which means that you will live locally the whole year and won't be enrolled in college full-time during the whole  year (June - June)        
  • Once the application is live and we are accepting submissions, you'll find it linked on all the OYPL pages on the website. 

    You can download the paper application as a PDF here now.

  • Applications for the 2022 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate will be open from January 3 to February 7, 2022.

  • Yes! You can submit the application on behalf of a young person as long as you can provide complete information for the nominee(s), including 3 poems, name of an Adult Sponsor and accurate contact information.

    You may nominate up to 3 students.

    Please confirm their ability to complete the program year (June - June) should they advance to the final round.

  • Email oypl@oaklandlibrary.org or call the Oakland Public Library at (510) 761-7636.

FAQs About Judging

  • There are two rounds of judging.

    The first round is scored anonymously. The judges read the three poems you submit with your application and score them based on the ContentCraft, and Voice.

    The poets who score the highest in the first round will move on to the second and final round of judging and be considered the year's OYPL Finalists.

    In the final round, the judges score these Finalists on Performance and Leadership, based on the letter of support, the artist statement, any awards and community service, and previous involvement in the OYPL program, as well as a mandatory in-person reading and interview with the panel of judges in April. 

    The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate will be the one poet who scores the highest total of both rounds. The Vice Laureate will have the second highest score.

  • Email oypl@oaklandlibrary.org or call the Oakland Public Library at (510) 761-7636.

  • There are five judges, representing a diverse group of experts from literacy, arts and educational organizations as well as local celebrity authors, artists and activists.

    Past judges have included:

    • U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera
    • poets and playwrights Chinaka Hodge and Aimee Suzara
    • community organizer and Poetry for the People alum Maria Poblet
    • NAACP image award nominee Arisa White
    • KQED Columnist Pendarvis Harshaw
    • award-winning writer MK Chavez
    • former Oakland City Councilmember Wilson Riles
    • Hip Hop for Change Founder and Executive Director Kahfre Jay
    • author, musician, educator, and community organizer Tyson Amir
    • pianist, emcee, producer, music historian, and teacher Kev Choice
    • poet, editor, and educator Maw Shein Win
    • founder and executive director of Nomadic Press, J.K. Fowler
    • former Oakland Youth Poets Laureate and Finalists
    • many other local authors and community leaders

    You can get to know out our most recent panel of judges.

  • You can download a PDF of the criteria here:  Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Judging Criteria, 2022

    This is the exact criteria that will be used by the judges. 

  • The Oakland Youth Poet Laureate and Oakland Vice Youth Poet Laureate will be announced on June 3 at a public event with all the Finalists.

Technical Application FAQs

  • Email oypl@oaklandlibrary.org or call the Oakland Public Library at (510) 761-7636.

  • Changes may be made to your entry before the deadline by using the “Edit Response” link in your confirmation email. 

    The pdf file of your poems cannot be changed.

    If you would like to apply with a different pdf document, before the deadline you can forward your confirmation email to oypl@oaklandlibrary.org with the document attached and explain that you would like to replace your poems.

  • You can visit your local library or school and use the internet there to submit your online application.

    Finally, if you have no other means to submit your application online, a paper application is available for you to download and mail in.

    OYPL 2022 Application Paper Version

    Contact us to send you one by snail mail:
    OYPL
    Teen Services, Oakland Public Library
    125 14th St.
    Oakland CA 94612.

  • You must complete all the required questions at one time and submit. There is no way to save your work.

    But after you submit, you will be sent a link enabling you to edit your application until the deadline. You will have to email us a new PDF of your poems, though.

    We recommend that you look at the questions on the application and then prepare and proofread your responses over time in a savable document. Then you can copy and paste your perfect responses into the online application and have your poems ready for uploading in PDF form.

  • Yes, you do. You cannot complete the application without a Google account.

    You can get one here: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp.

    In the application, please give us the email address you check most often; you do not have to use your Gmail address for your contact email. 

Upcoming OYPL Events

The Oakland 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 Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Scholarship administration and financial, cultural, and social support is provided by Scholarship America.

Community Partners: Write-to-Read and Alameda County LibraryChapter 510, and the Oakland Museum of California  with support from Urban Word.

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