The 2021 Class of National Student Poets—five students from around the country who have attained the nation’s top honor for young poets presenting original work—were appointed to their posts as teen literary ambassadors in September!
The Class of 2021 National Student Poets, publicly announced in July, are as follows:
- Midwest: RC Davis, grade 11, he/him/his, of Oak Park, IL
- Northeast: Kevin Gu, grade 11, he/him/his, of Hopkinton, MA
- Southeast: Aanika Eragam, grade 11, she/her/hers, of Alpharetta, GA
- Southwest: Kechi Mbah, grade 11, she/her/hers, of Houston, TX
- West: Sarah Fathima Mohammed, grade 10, she/her/hers, of Los Gatos, CA
We were crossing our fingers and hoping that the Class of 2021 could gather together in Washington D.C. for an in-person Appointment Ceremony and accompanying orientation events from September 20–22. And—thanks to a modified Appointment Events schedule and tireless work by our staff and our program partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services—we did!
This was the first in-person Appointment Ceremony since before the pandemic, and while virtual alternatives offered new avenues and opportunities for broadening community service, all of us were thrilled to share the same physical space with one another at last! Back in July we predicted that there would be tears when we could finally be together again, and we were right! Not only did we get a chance to spend time with the Class of 2021, the Class of 2020 National Student Poets were featured guests…who finally met each other face to face for the first time.
Kennedy Center Teaching Artist Glenis Redmond, who has mentored each Class of National Student Poets since 2014, worked with the Class of 2021 virtually throughout August and early September to prepare them for their Appointment Ceremony on September 21, 2021.
The Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 were both highlighted in the 2021 Appointment Ceremony, where the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, was the Program’s esteemed guest speaker, joining Alliance Executive Director Chris Wisniewski and IMLS Director Crosby Kemper, who co-hosted the event. Due to pandemic restrictions, the Appointment Ceremony was closed to the public, but we’re thrilled to share it virtually with you now. We hope you enjoy Natasha Trethewey’s powerful charge to the new Class of 2021, alongside words of welcome and wisdom from the Class of 2020, and the Class of 2021’s electrifying poetry.
(Check back here to watch the above video on October 20)
After a year of work that has been online only, the poets—and staff—were overjoyed to come together physically in a Covid-conscious environment, with the Class of 2020 acting as peer mentors to the incoming Class of 2021. Additionally, Maya Eashwaran (Class of 2016, Southeast) joined the post-Ceremony dinner to offer alum advice, proving that the bonds forged by the National Student Poets Program last far beyond a single year of service.
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Class of 2021 as they step into their roles as youth poetry ambassadors! In the meantime, visit our website, artandwriting.org/nspp, to learn more.
Header image: The Classes of 2020 and 2021 with Olivia Morgan, NSPP founder, and Glenis Redmond, mentor. Photo by Shannon Finney.