Sarasota Youth Poet Laureate Announced

The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County is thrilled to announce the appointment of the inaugural Sarasota Youth Poet Laureate for the Cultural Coast region, Hayley Peace. 

Peace, an 11th grade student at Pineview School, is the recipient of a $500 stipend and will embark on a year of opportunities as an ambassador for literary arts and youth expression. She will also qualify to be selected as the National Youth Poet Laureate.

“I’m so honored to be Sarasota’s Youth Poet Laureate,” Hayley Peace said. “It was a pleasure to work with the other poets who now serve as ambassadors for the program, and I hope I can help spread the joy of spoken word to those in this wonderfully artistic city.” 

The official announcement was made Monday evening at the Sarasota Youth Poet Laureate Awards Ceremony at the Historic Asolo Theatre at the Ringling Museum. Students and their families from all over the region, along with the general public gathered to recognize program finalists. 

The additional finalists, ranging in ages from 13 to 18, included A’Rayia Davis, Laura Glik Fusaro, Jacob Gardner, Nelson Rapalo and Hanna Van Hise. Each finalist had the opportunity to read an original poem to the audience before special guest Ada Limón, Poet Laureate of the United States took the stage.

(Left to Right) Program finalists Hannah Van Hise, Nelson Rapalo, A’rayia Davis, Arts Alliance Executive Director Jim Shirley, Ada Limón, program finalists Hayley Peace, Jacob Gardner and Laura Glik Fusaro.

Limón shared a heart-felt message to program finalists, as well as spoke to her background and the excitement around her fairly recent appointment as the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States. Limón then read 5 poems from various published works. 

Ada Limón is the author of six books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Limón is also the host of the critically-acclaimed poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Her new book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, is out now from Milkweed Editions. 

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the Ringling Museum, as well as a book signing event with Ms. Limón. Thanks to a generous donation from the Leigh Perry Charitable Gift Foundation, every student that attended the ceremony received a copy of Limón’s book The Hurting Kind.

“We have been so impressed by the creative writing skills and poise of these young artists. It is evident that their teachers are doing a masterful job of coaching and encouraging” said Jim Shirley, Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance. Shirley added that, “we are so fortunate to bring the US Poet Laureate to Sarasota to mentor and inspire young creatives.”

The Sarasota Youth Poet Laureate Program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, and human relations, diversity and social justice across Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte Counties.