Berkeley High senior is Oakland’s new Youth Poet Laureate

Nadia Elbgal, 18, will give voice to her community through poetry and public appearances.

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

Nadia Elbgal, an 18-year-old Berkeley High student, has been named the 2022 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate by the Oakland Public Library.

Elbgal is the 11th 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 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. Elbgal was one of two Vice Youth Poet Laureates in 2021. 

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 Oakland schools. As Youth Poet Laureate, she hopes to be an advocate for Middle Eastern communities and youth 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. “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.”