Nadia Elbgal, an Oakland resident and senior at Berkeley High, is Oakland's newest Youth Poet Laureate. Credit: Oakland Public Library

The Oakland Public Library has named 18-year-old Nadia Elbgal its 2022 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. Elbgal is the eleventh youth poet to represent the city since the program was launched by the library’s teen services division in 2012 to promote literacy and help connect young Oakand writers with professional opportunities. Laureates also receive a $5,000 scholarship. 

Mayor Libby Schaaf made the announcement at a live event this past Saturday at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, where Elbgal and six other competitors performed. One of the finalists, Kaylan Black, was named Vice Youth Poet Laureate. Black, 16, is a junior at Envision Academy of Arts and Technology, and was one of two Vice Youth Poet Laureates in 2021, alongside Elbgal. 

Elbgal, who is Yemeni American and of a mixed background, will graduate from Berkeley High this June. She currently also volunteers as a mentor to Yemeni students attending OUSD schools. As Oakland’s Youth Poet Laureate, she hopes to be an advocate for Middle Eastern communities and youth in the city through her poetry and activism.

“One of my main goals is to speak to Middle Eastern youth in Oakland. I hope to be a voice for a community that is often underrepresented,” Elbgal wrote in a statement to The Oaklandside. “I want them to know how valued their experiences and perspectives are.” 

Elbgal will be following in the footsteps of last year’s Youth Poet Laureate Myra Estrada, a student at Oakland High School.

Like Estrada did before her, Elbgal will represent the city and her culture for one year through poetry readings and other public appearances. She said it’s an honor to do so alongside others in Oakland working for a better city.

“Oakland is a passionate city full of people pushing to make changes that benefit the community,” said Elbgal. “I write to do my part in that.”

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.