Poet Mentors play a vital role in the organization because they serve as a first line of contact for the youth we serve every year. All of our Poet Mentors must be engaged in a year-long apprenticeship program that includes a formal mentorship with one of our senior teaching staff, participation in our First Sound Institute at USF, and ongoing assessment, evaluation and professional development from Youth Speaks. We hire accomplished spoken word artists to train and work as mentors and workshop facilitators in our residency, school visit and after school programs. Our goal is to jointly inspire voice, artistic development and leadership by fostering face-to-face relationships between emerging artists and young people. We believe that our ability to effectively apply our unique pedagogical practice depends on the quality of the teaching artists we employ. For this coming year, Youth Speaks will continue to shift how we invest in and develop our teaching artists (poet-mentors), and how we identify, train, support, and evaluate them. We have launched a new five-tier methodology for placing and supporting Poet Mentors.