Youth Poet Laureate Program

2016 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate

Azariah Cole-Shephard

Photo of Azariah Cole-Shephard

Ms. Cole-Shephard was the runner-up in the 2015 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate competition and emerged in 2016 as the best of five talented finalists in this year’s program. Young  poets from across Oakland participated in a highly competitive process juried by accomplished authors, educators and community leaders. Ms. Cole-Shephard will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and the opportunity to officially represent the Oakland community through poetry, media, and public appearances.

Ms. Cole-Shephard has just graduated from Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy where she was on the honor roll, served as captain of the debate team, and mentored and tutored other students.

Wilson Riles, former Oakland City Councilmember, who served as one of this year’s five Youth Poet Laureate judges, says , “Azariah is fired with the cause of justice. It heats up her words. Stand back lest ye be scorched!"

Azariah is the intellectualized voice of Oakland and I am so excited to see how she affects the world in the years to come,” says Vernon Keeve III, a published poet, OUSD high school English and history teacher and another of this year’s judges. 


  • Tova Ricardo, 17, Bentley High School - 2015 Poet Laureate
  • Sophie Elkin, 18, Oakland School for the Arts - 2014 Poet Laureate
  • Obasi Davis, 17, Berkeley High School – 2013 Poet Laureate
  • Stephanie Yun, 18, Skyline High School – 2012 Poet Laureate

About the Youth Poet Laureate Program

Presented by Oakland Public Library and Youth Speaks, the Youth Poet Laureate program is supported by an alliance of community partners representing Oakland’s leading arts, education and community organizations. Scholarship funding is provided by Youth Speaks Youth Poet Laureate Fund and the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Scholarship administration and academic support is provided by ScholarMatch.

Community Partners: Oakland Unified School District, Write-to-Read and Alameda County Library, Chapter 510, and BeastCrawl.

BOOKING: To book Azariah Cole-Shephard  for a performance or workshop, please fill out the  BOOKING REQUEST FORM.

For press inquiries, contact Lana Adlawan at or 510-238-7613.