North Philly student named city’s youth poet laureate

Andre’a Rhoads.color photo
Andre’a Rhoads, 17, was selected as Philadelphia’s 2021-22 youth poet laureate.
PHOTO: Provided

Andre’a Rhoads, a 17-year-old writer from North Philadelphia who has already completed a book of poetry and is working on a novel, says she is ready to take her next job “head-on.”

The rising senior at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls on Thursday, July 1, was named Philadelphia’s youth poet laureate for the 2021-22 school year.

In the role, Andre’a will serve as a literary ambassador for the city, leading readings and workshops. She will also be tasked with organizing a special project and a poetry slam festival tackling gun violence.

“Andre’a channels a unique and passionate perspective through her poetry,” said Yolanda Wisher, the city’s 2016-17 adult poet laureate and co-chair of the committee that selected Andre’a.

“The Youth Poet Laureate program is sustained by emerging writers like her who want to use their voices to embody and enact change in our city,” Wisher added in a statement.

Andre’a told Metro that she hopes as poet laureate “to motivate and empower, to show that anyone can get here if they work hard enough and they strive for it.”

She likes to write about current events, including the Black Lives Matter movement, but much of her work focuses on love and the experience of a teenager.

“Andre’a’s voice is authentic and powerful,” Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia’s adult poet laureate, said in a statement. “There is no doubt that she will use her poetry to reach young people across Philadelphia.”

As part of the year-long program, Mayson will serve as a mentor to Andre’a, according to the Free Library of Philadelphia, which oversees the poet laureate initiative. She will also receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Andre’a said her first book, “In the High,” was a collection of poems that formed a story highlighting the trials and tribulations of teenage life.

She’s more than four chapters into a novel, called “Jackson’s Revelation,” about a boy who moves from New York to Atlanta for a fresh start.

“But he witnesses his newfound love interest get murdered right in front of him, and he goes from being a victim to a suspect,” Andre’a explained.

As a poet, Andre’a looks up to Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. She likes the rawness of their prose and admires the hurdles they overcame in their lives.

One of her favorite poems is Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death,” a piece she encountered during her junior year at Little Flower.

“There were so many different metaphors in that poem,” Andre’a said. “She was talking about so many different things, and I understood all of it. That showed me that I was truly into this, that this was my calling.”

Andre’a began writing in 5th grade while attending the Gesu School, an independent Catholic school in North Philadelphia, and became interested in poetry in middle school.

Outside of writing, she likes to play basketball and sing.

Andre’a takes over as Philadelphia’s youth poet laureate from Cydney Brown, a student at Abington Friends School.

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