The Free Library of Philadelphia is delighted to announce that Andre’a Rhoads, a rising junior at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, is the 2021-2022 Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate. A committee of poets, educators, and arts-organization professionals selected Andre’a from a competitive pool of applicants for the year-long role.
Andre’a is from North Philadelphia and developed her love of writing at Gesu Elementary School. There, an advanced writing class taught her that we can learn about ourselves by reading the words of others. Encountering the work of Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and the poets of the Harlem Renaissance sparked her passion for poetry. She credits her gift for self-expression to her parents, the community that has nurtured her, and her faith.
"My parents Tracy and Andre Rhoads always taught me to express myself unapologetically, and to never let obstacles stand in my way. I come from a loving community and family. When my back is against the wall, I have a support system who will come to my rescue. My peers and family members give me hope that dreams are real, and that anything is possible. My faith in God also uplifts me."
During her laureate year, Andre’a will be an ambassador for poetry around the city through readings and workshops. She will also design and implement a community-based project featuring a poetry slam festival and short video that inspire Philadelphians to address gun violence in our city. Andre’a has already demonstrated commitment to her community as a volunteer for Cradles to Crayons and a youth mentor for both her church and her middle school.
The Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate receives an educational scholarship and has the opportunity to be mentored by the city’s Poet Laureate. Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson writes, "Andre’a’s voice is authentic and powerful. As the City’s next Youth Poet Laureate, there is no doubt that she will use her poetry to reach young people across Philadelphia. Young writers need creative opportunities to help them grow and shine. The Youth Poet Laureate position is essential in that it offers recognition while uplifting young voices."
Yolanda Wisher, a former Philadelphia Poet Laureate and current co-chair of the Poet Laureate Governing Committee, added that "Andre'a channels a unique and passionate perspective through her poetry. The Youth Poet Laureate program is sustained by emerging writers like her who want to use their voices to embody and enact change in our city."
The Philadelphia Youth Poet Laureate Program is administered by the Free Library of Philadelphia in collaboration with Urban Word NYC. Both the Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate are civic positions that recognize exceptional poets who also demonstrate commitments to the power of poetry to engage and inspire people throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
Every year the Youth Poet Laureate selection process reveals the immense talent of Philadelphia’s young poets, resulting in the challenging choice of picking one laureate. The Free Library congratulates everyone who applied this year for their dedication to writing and to Philadelphia!