About Youth Speaks



Committed to a critical, youth-centered pedagogy, Youth Speaks places young people in control of their intellectual and artistic development. We are urgently driven by the belief that literacy is a need, not a want, and that literacy comes in various forms. As we move more deeply into the 21st Century, oral poetry is helping to define the new American Voice. By making the connection between poetry, spoken word, youth development and civic engagement, Youth Speaks aims to deconstruct dominant narratives in hopes of achieving a more inclusive, and active, culture. Believing that young people have the tools to take control of their lives through language, Youth Speaks encourages youth to express themselves using their own vernacular.

Youth Speaks believes that having knowledge, practice, and confidence in the written and spoken language is essential to the self-empowerment of an individual. We fill a need for creative approaches to literary arts education and literacy development; we believe it is crucial to provide spaces where youth can undergo a process of personal growth and transformation in a program that enriches their educational, professional, artistic and leadership skills.

We Believe In…


We believe it is critical that young people have opportunities to find, develop, publicly present, and intentionally apply their voices. Silence is a powerful thing when chosen, but incredibly oppressive when forced upon.


We are committed to providing opportunities for youth to engage with the traditions of orality so as to immortalize the voices of today’s young writers.


Youth Speaks reflects diversity and engenders a community of young artists who reach across demographic boundaries toward self-exploration and growth, providing a platform where conflicts are resolved on the page or the stage, rather than on the street.


Youth Speaks is committed to the written and spoken word, innovating our programs so they remain accessible and attractive to the populations we serve, and reflects their stories without leaving out the stories that have come before.


Youth Speaks provokes movement from silence to empowerment based in liberatory pedagogy and youth development. We work to democratize a civic population of youth by giving them a platform to critically and creatively analyze their worlds, and then share what they’ve come up with.

We Believe in EXCELLENCE

We challenge young people to find their own voices, to work hard to apply them, and to do so responsibly. We ask youth to not be afraid of their own potential; we promise them we won’t be.

We Believe in LIFE

We are firmly attached to the idea that every young person matters, that we all deserve to be safe in our local environments, and have the right to know that our voices will be heard and will live on.

Guiding Principles

By providing free arts education to youth with limited access, our programs seek to empower young people with opportunities to discover and develop their own voices. We firmly believe that young people must think of their voices as vital tools through which they can process their lives, shape the world around them, and hone their abilities to envision and create long-lasting impact. To achieve this, our programs employ best practices of arts education and youth development, while encouraging young people to write about issues relevant to them, in their own vernacular. We ask young people to engage their own cultures to help bridge their personal literacies and the traditional academic literacies presented in school.

Youth Speaks

Youth Speaks