City of Long Beach 
Public Information Office
411 W. Ocean Blvd, 
Long Beach, CA 90802

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEPress Release # 052324
Helena Donato-Sapp Selected as Long Beach’s Second Youth Poet Laureate
Five Poet Ambassadors were selected at the announcement ceremony
Juliene Malecot
Senior Librarian
Billie Jean King Main Library

Group of eight Youth Poet Ambassadors and judges stand on stage smiling.Above: 2024 YPL Cohort and Judges: Front row - Poet Ambassadors Ajala Sen and Sammantha Martinez, Youth Poet Laureate Helena Donato-Sapp, Poet Ambassadors Jorany Chim and Ezequiel Correa.
Back row: Judges Claire Beeli, F. Douglas Brown, and Michelle Brittan Rosado.
Poet Ambassador Liam Balmeo not pictured.

Long Beach, CA – Helena Donato-Sapp from Vista Mar High School has been selected as the premiere Youth Poet Laureate for the sophomore year of the Long Beach Public Library’s Youth Poet Laureate (YPL) program. The announcement took place during a live ceremony held on May 9 at the historic Edison Theater, where five Poet Ambassadors were also selected. The YPL program aims to empower Long Beach youth to drive positive change in their communities through activism and art.

"The Youth Poet Laureate program showcases the incredible talent and passion of our city's youth," stated Mayor Rex Richardson. "Helena and the Poet Ambassadors represent the future of Long Beach, and I am confident that they will inspire positive change through their words and actions."

Helena Donato-Sapp emerged as the Youth Poet Laureate due to her remarkable portfolio of poems and extensive civic engagement. Her work exemplifies the power of poetry to address social justice issues and inspire positive transformation. In her poems, she displays both vulnerability and strength, tackling topics such as education struggles and amplifying youth voices. Helena's commitment to activism and education, particularly in areas such as disability justice, anti-bullying, Black girlhood, and decolonializing education, has earned her international recognition. Notably, she has been appointed as the youngest City Commissioner ever for the City of Long Beach’s Commission for Women and Girls.

"I am so grateful to be the 2024 Youth Poet Laureate of the City of Long Beach," expressed Helena Donato-Sapp. "Last year, as one of the inaugural Youth Poet Ambassadors, I made great friends with my cohort, and we learned so much and served our city well. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of Claire Beeli, the first Youth Poet Laureate, and thank her so much for showing me the way."

Joining Helena in this prestigious role are five Poet Ambassadors: Liam Balmeo, Jorany Chim, Ezequiel Correa, Sammantha Martinez and Ajala Sen. Each Poet Ambassador will receive a $500 scholarship, while Helena, as the Youth Poet Laureate, will be awarded a $1,500 scholarship.

Over the next year until spring 2025, the YPL Cohort will engage local youth in literary arts programming, receive mentorship, and collaborate to bring community projects to life. The program aims to foster personal connections with organizations and individuals throughout the city, culminating in the creation of a citywide literary initiative.

"At its core, the Youth Poet Laureate program is a celebration of youth at the intersection of artistic excellence and civic engagement," said Cathy De Leon, Director of Library Services. "It has been a truly wonderful experience to witness the journey of each poet participant throughout this program’s inaugural year, and we look forward to growing the Youth Poet Laureate program at the library each successive year. Congratulations to our Poet Laureate, our Poet Ambassadors, and everyone who participated."

More information about the Long Beach Public Library is available by calling 562.570.7500 or visiting the Library homepage.

About the City of Long Beach    
Long Beach is nestled along the Southern California coast and home to approximately 466,000people. As an award-winning full-service charter city, Long Beach offers the amenities of a metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods, culture, and community. With a bustling downtown and over six miles of scenic beaches, Long Beach is a renowned tourist and business destination and home to the iconic Queen Mary, nationally recognized Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach Airport, the award-winning Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center and world-class Port of Long Beach.

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