Apply to the OYPL Program

Apply to the OYPL Program

Applications for next year will open in early 2024. Stay tuned!

Congratulations to our 2023 Finalists and Youth Poet Laureate!

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.

2023 Youth Poet Laureate

Nairobi Barnes Announced as 2023 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate

Jun 03, 2023
Nairobi Barnes, 18 years old, has been named the 2023 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, winning a $5000 scholarship.

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)        
  • 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 2024 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate will open in early 2024.

  • 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.

Contact Us:

oypl@oaklandlibrary.org
(510) 761-7636

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OYPL Application FAQs

  • 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 2023 Application Paper Version

    Contact us to send you one by snail mail:
    510-761-7636 or
    OYPL
    Teen Services, Oakland Public Library
    125 14th St.
    Oakland CA 94612

  • 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. 

  • 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)        

FAQs About Judging

  • 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
    • Alameda County Youth Poet Laureate
    • 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

    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 in June at a public event with all the Finalists.

Technical Application FAQs

  • 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 2023 Application Paper Version

    Contact us to send you one by snail mail:
    510-761-7636 or
    OYPL
    Teen Services, Oakland Public Library
    125 14th St.
    Oakland CA 94612

  • 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. 

  • 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.

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 YouthSpeaks with support from Urban Word.

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