By Jessie Nguyen-Bilse
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Friends Board Vice President Ynez Arce present Nadia Elbgal (center) with a $5,000 college scholarship for winning the 2022 OYPL competition.
Since 2012, the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate program has been highlighting some of the
best and brightest voices of the Bay Area. This year is no different as Nadia Elbgal, a recent
graduate of Berkeley High, has been named this year's poet. Nadia was awarded a $5,000 college scholarship along with the title of the 2022 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate.
A self proclaimed shy person, Nadia has been writing since she was in the fourth grade,
finding her voice first through short stories, songs, and plays. She began performing her work in the ninth grade when she was given the assignment to write a monologue and perform it for her class. She credits her teachers with helping to push her to not only put her work out there, but to write from within as well.
“There’s a little voice in your head,” Nadia recalls the advice from her AP Literature teacher, “write what it says.”
Staying true to that, much of Nadia's work speaks to the lived experiences of her Yemeni
community in Oakland. She says that she wants her poetry to not only uplift those around her, but to shed light on the ways in which her community can better the city as a whole.
And Nadia is not all talk. She shows her commitment through her mentorship of OUSD students. She is also an active role model to her four younger sisters who are at the heart of much of her poetry.
“I do it for them,” she states. “To make a path for them to find their passion.”
Now that she’s a high school graduate, Nadia feels there is much she’d like to do in the future. She’ll be taking classes at Berkeley City College and “acclimating to adult life.”
Just like with her poetry, she hopes to make a difference in the lives of young people, by working with youth struggling with substance abuse and incarceration. She mentions Homeboy Industries, a rehabilitation program based in Los Angeles, as a program she would like to work with in the future. She also has her sights set on publishing a collection of poetry.
When asked if she had any advice for young writers she said simply, “Be true to your
vision. [That] there is societal pressure to write something mainstream, [but] do what you think is right.”
If you’re looking for some reading, Nadia recommends Clap When you Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, a novel written completely in poetic verse.
Editor’s Note: The Friends of the OPL has supported the OYPL program since its inception. The Friends provides the winner a $5,000 scholarship. Thanks to our members and donors for funding this inspirational program!