Pleasanton has named Amador Valley High School senior Nikita Jayaprakash to be the city's 2021-22 teen poet laureate after a selection process in which four candidates submitted writing samples and references, and interviewed with city staff.
The Civic Arts and Library commissions appointed Jayaprakash to the position in May, which was confirmed by City Council last week.
Jayaprakash said she has aspired to the position since she was 12, when the teen poet laureate collected poems from middle school students to publish in an anthology.
"That was the first time I got published, and it was nice to see there was a community of writers," Jayaprakash said.
She began writing poetry at the age of 7.
"I used to take a bunch of art and drawing classes but I was never very good at it, and my second-grade teacher, Melinda Ballard, suggested, 'Maybe you should try writing,'" Jayaprakash recalled with a laugh.
"She was a very important figure and supporter in my life," she added.
Jayaprakash said poetry can be stigmatized as needing a specific structure, but she likes its flexibility.
She feels poetry is an outlet to talk about anything, not just deep emotions, and she would like to teach this to young children.
"My term starts in August, and I want to bring it to kids in elementary school because that's when I started," she said.
She also wants to work at the other end of the age spectrum, Jayaprakash said, which she enjoyed as a volunteer at the Pleasanton Senior Center.
"They had so many great stories to tell, and it's a very different perspective," she said.
The role of the teen poet laureate is to bring creativity to the city's public events throughout the year and to help foster an appreciation for composing, reading, reciting and listening to poetry in and around the city.
Jayaprakash noted she is comfortable with public speaking and enjoyed giving dance performances from an early age.
"When we give speeches in class, I look forward to that," she said.
Jayaprakash has worked at the Pleasanton Public Library as a Kid Power volunteer and at the Senior Center as a leader in training.
A Lost Art, A Forgotten Secret
The loudest voices are often heard,
But that doesn't make them the majority,
For all the prestige in the world,
I still wouldn't give up this liberty:
To take the thoughts I ponder,
And immortalize those ideas so fickle,
Because the black of written ink lasts longer
Than the ideas we bother to scream or whisper.
-- Nikita Jayaprakash