Meet North Carolina’s High School Poet Laureates

A new program developed by Jaki Shelton Green celebrates talented young poets across the state. Meet the first four high school laureates.
by Jaki Shelton Green | illustrations by Rebekah Evans

Early on in my tenure as the North Carolina Poet Laureate, I was awarded an Academy of American Poet Laureates Fellowship to address expanding the literary arts and programming opportunities for youth audiences.

My engagements with North Carolina teen writers became the infrastructure for my vision to create poet laureateships in every high school in every county across the state. With support from the North Carolina Arts Council, this vision has started to come to fruition.

The primary purpose of the High School Poet Laureate Program is to recognize students with a passion and talent for poetry and supply them with mentoring and other resources to foster a lifelong interest in literature. The program also strives to increase interest in poetry as an art form by engaging many diverse members of the school and community through the process of choosing the laureates in each individual school and district.

Finally, the program endeavors to increase the visibility and enjoyment of poetry in all communities through local readings, writing, events and workshops involving the High School Poet Laureates.

The first four High School Poet Laureates, chosen from Columbus County Schools, began their tenures this year. Enjoy this selection of their poetry.

Alleyna Roberts, West Columbus High School

Roberts’ poem, Society, offers a reflection on the feeling of being trapped by society.

Abigail McPherson, Columbus Career and College Academy

McPherson’s poem, Sense of Home, considers the beauty and sense of home that the countryside offers.

Justin Wellons, East Columbus Junior/Senior High School

Wellons’ poem, Boylan Bridge, finds joy and humanity in our cities.

Leah Dew, South Columbus High School

Dew’s poem, Times Change, Us Too, is about the struggle to accept the passage of time. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.