Oakland native Tova Ricardo was chosen as the 2015 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, a top literary honor for both the city and its hometown hero.
Ricardo, 16, was awarded with a $5,000 scholarship and will represent her community through poetry, media and public appearances.
She was one of 53 applicants who competed in the program, which is open to young people ages 13-18 that live or attend school in Oakland.
Ricardo says she has been writing since she could remember. She is a member of the poetry club and also Student Body Co-Treasurer at Bentley School in Lafayette, where she will start her junior year this fall.
Ricardo recalls it was her middle school English teacher who helped her embrace poetry, and her high school teacher, Peter Hagen, who has been her mentor.
As an avid writer, athlete and musician, Ricardo says she wants to use her writing to inspire others, especially other youth in Oakland.
“I would love to inspire the youth of Oakland to feel like they have a voice…their story has worth,” she said, overcome with excitement in an interview with the Post.
“I want to inspire (youth) to realize their potential and formulate their love of themselves, pride in Oakland and express that in their artwork or whatever makes them feel free,” Ricardo said.
“I’m very proud to be a part of Oakland,” she said.
Now in its fourth year, the Youth Poet Laureate Program is a partnership between Youth Speaks, Oakland Public Library, ProArts and more than a dozen community partners. The program welcomes all poets, from the page to the stage, celebrates literacy through poetry and connects young writers to far-reaching opportunities.
Past Winners are Sophie Elkin (2014), Obasi Davis (2013), and Stephanie Yun (2012).