University School of Milwaukee student Emily Igwike ’24 has been named the first-ever Youth Poet Laureate of Milwaukee. High school juniors from Milwaukee County applied for the competition, and the finalists were selected in April. From there, finalists competed at a juried competition on April 15 at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Central Branch.
As a Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate, Igwike will receive a $500 scholarship, a paid summer internship with Woodland Pattern, opportunities to perform around the city and to compete regionally and nationally, and a week-long mentorship with a former Youth Poet Laureate from elsewhere in the country.
Igwike has been hosting poet workshops throughout USM’s Middle School, where she talks to students about poetry and helps them to write their own unique poems.
Earlier this year, Igwike was named one of five National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. She was honored at the White House and invited to read her original work to distinguished guests, including First lady Jill Biden and Ada Limon, the 24th poet laureate of the United States.
About the Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Program
Established in 2022 by Woodland Pattern and Wisconsin Poet Laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton—in partnership with Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Public Schools, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Writing Project, and UWM's Graduate Program in Creative Writing—the Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate program is part of the national affiliation of Youth Poet Laureate programs, administrated by Urban Word.
Milwaukee's program uniquely features a course curriculum for high school juniors that places equal emphasis on creative writing and critical thinking, preparing students to become thought leaders.
Each year, the Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate will have the opportunity to compete for national and regional titles. The National Youth Poet Laureate Competition is an initiative of Urban Word, in collaboration with local youth literary arts organizations across the country; and championed by the leading national literary and arts organizations, including the Library of Congress, Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Cave Canem.
The program identifies powerful youth poets that have a history of artistic success, civic and community engagement, social justice, and youth leadership. Over 50 partner cities participate in Urban Word’s national network of Youth Poet Laureates and compete in the National Youth Poet Laureate Competition.
Along with offering the title of local Youth Poet Laureate (YPL), Urban Word publishes poems by local YPLs in its annual National Youth Poet Laureate anthology.