Called the ‘next great figure of poetry in the US’, nineteen-year-old Amanda Gorman has been named the first National Youth Poet Laureate. This is just one of her numerous achievements. Her first poetry book, “The One For Whom Food Is Not Enough”, was published in 2015. Amanda has served as a U. N. Youth Delegate at the UN Headquarters in New York City and also as an Ann Inc. Vital Voices Fellow in Washington D.C. However, these honors are just means of achieving Amanda’s main goal – to change the attitude to the world of literacy and youth activism. With this purpose One Page One Page community was founded. Who is Amanda Gorman and what inspires her to create? Let’s find out!

Amanda Gorman: The First Youth Poet Laureate Of The West

Amanda’s childhood

Amanda was born in Los Angele in a big family. As her older brother and a twin sister, Amanda grew up under the watchful eye of her mother. Working a sixth-grade teacher, Amanda’s mother fostered creative curiosity in her kids with a highly effective and peculiar method.  Children were only ever allowed to watch ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Honeymooners’. “Whenever my friends came over, they were like, ‘Why is your television screen in black and white?’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? This is what everyone’s screen is like,’” – Amanda shares. It was the way to “make their own fun,” as Amanda puts it, that set her on an insatiable path for reading and writing.

In addition to her upbringing, Gorman attended New Roads School from K-12, which championed unorthodox thinking, encouraging students to go beyond basic regurgitation-based education practices and focus on tangible steps that center around creating meaning and doing. Her finals culminated in critical thinking, focusing on topics that included ways to change the world.

Amanda Gorman Performing: The First Youth Poet Laureate Of The West

 

Victories

Amanda usually addresses her writing to the intersections of race, feminism, and adolescence, as well as the changing landscapeof her native Los Angeles. For both her poetry and her advocacy, Gorman has been recognized by Forbes, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the YoungArts Foundation, and the OZY Genius Awards. She has also performed on The Today Show, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon News, and helped introduce Hillary Clinton at the 2017 Global Leadership Awards.

After becoming the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014, Amanda was recently appointed the first Youth Poet Laureate of the entire West.

Amanda Gorman: The First Youth Poet Laureate Of The West

Shocking value

Amanda is only 19. Sometimes the age interferes to do business, because Amanda prefers to conceal it: “ It got to a point that if I was emailing people or contacting people, I would not tell them my age or say where I went to high school. I tried to leave it out as much as possible. Then I’d sit down in these meetings and people would see me and be like, “Oh. She looks 12.”

However, if people find it out, the age becomes Amanda’s trump. “I look so young. But it can also work in my favor when people see what is being done and they realize that it’s such a young person doing it. I always like that shock value,” – Amanda reflects. “ I’ve talked about this with a lot of people from marginalized groups: People might hear your story and expect you to be from a certain place or a specific identity, but nothing is better, at least in my opinion, than breaking through those barriers and going, “Actually, I did start this nonprofit when I was this young. I did write this narrative and I am an African-American female.” I think there’s a lot of positive shock value in that.”

Amanda Gorman: The First Youth Poet Laureate Of The West

 

Meeting with Michelle Obama

Another important achievement in Amanda’s life is meeting with Michelle Obama. “There are no words. That was amazing. Michelle Obama…every time I say her name, it’s almost like I’m saying a spell from Harry Potter.”

Gorman was so impressed that she almost lost conscious. “I’m so surprised I didn’t faint, because when I walked into the room and I saw her, my brain just stopped working. I took a step back. Someone was behind me. They’re like, “Do you need to sit down?” And I was like, “I think so.” She walked up to me and said, “Hi.” I pulled what Ralph Kramden does in ‘The Honeymooners’. He does this a lot where he goes, “Homina, homina, homina!” because he has nothing else to say. I did that and I just sputtered out, “I love you!” I was just so overwhelmed. It’s like standing next to a goddess. I can’t even,” – Amanda remembers.

 

One Pen One Page

In 2015 she founded One Pen One Page, a nonprofit organization that “changes the world through the power of stories”. “The world is always in need of positive social change. At One Pen One Page, we believe in the unique capacity of storytelling to make that change a reality communities around the world,” – the community’s website says. “We affirm that if you give these storytelling tools to the next generation of young leaders, change is not only possible, but accessible.”

Amanda Gorman: One Pen One Page

 

The project works through international partnerships and local programs to bring creative writing programs and leadership support to the youth who need it. “Our aim is to help students galvanize their own social change through the powerful tools of creative expression and personal voice.  It’s also important to ensure that kids have the support to make a difference in their communities with their creativity and voices. Literacy is one of the many key ways to improving opportunities for underserved youth around the globe.”

“I am so grateful to be part of this cohort of young creatives who are taking up their pens to have a voice for what is right and what is just,” – Amanda says. “I don’t just want to write—I want to do right as well.”

 

Finding balance

The most difficult Amanda’s goal now is balancing her social and educational life. “I’m trying to balance school and my appointment as the Youth Poet Laureate of the West at the same time. That’s what I’m very focused on right now – using my platform to see how I can initiate conversations, help out with community projects, and really focus on the people around me. Right now I’m also an ambassador for the School of Doodle, which is an online platform for teen girls. I’m really excited to be working with them and to be promoting this message of confidence to defend girls in my generation.”

Amanda Gorman: The First Youth Poet Laureate Of The West

 

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