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Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County

Since 2020, City of Asylum has recognized young writers who excel in the arts and are committed to social justice and civic engagement by naming a Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County and Youth Poet Ambassadors each year. Winners are selected by a panel of judges with expertise in art, social justice, and civic engagement. For this award, City of Asylum partners with Urban Word and is a member of the National Youth Poet Laureate Network.


Apply to be the next Youth Poet Laureate

The second Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County 2021-2022 will be announced in August 2021.

The winner receives:
– a prize of $500
– local performance opportunities with compensation during their term of service (July 2021 – June 2022)
– entry into the Northeast Regional Youth Poet Laureate Competition organized by Urban Word’s National Youth Poet Laureate Network
– publication in the National Youth Poet Laureate Network anthology

Meet the Judges

Applications are judged for content, not grammatical correctness, by the following panel of experts in the fields of art, social justice, and civic engagement.

Khalil Zeigler is a poet, fiction writer, and avid comic book reader. From the corner of 24th and Norris (North Philadelphia, PA), he discovered writing by way of fantasy fiction in high school and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s in English in pursuit of his passion. Khalil writes about escapism, feeling like an outsider in his own community, and hidden magic in everyday life. He was an organizer for the inaugural year of the Sabira Cole Film Festival.

R/B Mertz (she/they) is a non-binary butch caterpillar very happy to be emerging in Pittsburgh. Mertz recently finished a memoir called Burning Butch, represented by Danielle Bukowski at Sterling Lord Literistic. Their narrative essay, “How Whiteness Kills God & Sprinkles Crack on the Body,” was published on the blog Mistress Syndrome and their visual art was exhibited at Boxheart Gallery’s 2017 International juried exhibition. Mertz teaches writing at Duquesne University and the Community College of Allegheny County and can’t stop won’t stop singing showtunes.

Mairead McCarthy is an experienced mediator, editor, and artist. Steered by her passion for health equity and a vision of a world where all beings can live their most vibrant lives, she takes pride in building meaningful relationships with those around her. As an editor at iGenerationYouth, a multimedia company providing high-level training, work experience, and publishing opportunities for youth contributors around the globe, Mairead enjoys the process of helping young people discover and cultivate their creative talents. In addition to her primary job, Mairead volunteers her time mediating housing conflicts with Just Mediation Pittsburgh. Her experiences in Ecuador, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic led her to helping welcome refugees and asylum-seekers in both New Mexico and Pittsburgh. She loves to reflect and create in her daily journal.


Meet the Youth Poet Laureate Alumni

City of Asylum is proud to support young artists in Allegheny County through our Youth Poet Laureate Program. You can learn more about them here, read their poetry, and watch archived performances online.


Youth Poet Laureate in the Press


City of Asylum is grateful for support from the following partners:

This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD). Urban Word is the primary partner for the Youth Poet Laureate of Allegheny County, an official member of National Youth Poet Laureate Program led by Urban Word.

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