Ryleigh Emmert, a Lewiston High School sophomore, is the new youth poet laureate.

LEWISTON — Mayor Mark Cayer began this week’s City Council meeting by stating that of all his recent appointments since being elected, he is perhaps the most proud of his choice for the city’s new youth poet laureate.

Ryleigh Mae Emmert, a Lewiston High School sophomore, recently won her school’s Poetry Out Loud competition, which made her a natural candidate for the role.

But, Cayer said the accolades went beyond that.

Cayer said Thursday that with several recommendations from peers and teachers, as well as a meeting with Emmert, her selection was an easy decision.

“Reaching out to folks at the (school) district, I heard nothing but incredible things,” Cayer said, adding that when the two met, Emmert “understood the importance of representing the city.”

Emmert, 15, performed an original poem, “You and I and us all together,” during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. She said the poem is themed around “community wellness.”

Emmert is Lewiston’s second youth poet laureate since the City Council created the position last year. Joao Victor, the first laureate, was appointed by Mayor Kristen Cloutier as a senior following his statewide Poetry Out Loud title, which sent him to the national finals.

When reached Thursday, Emmert said she was surprised but grateful for the nomination. She said the position shows that Lewiston recognizes the importance of promoting the arts.

“I think it’s very important for cities and school districts to promote the arts because it provides a creative outlet for students that can be very motivating to a lot of youth, and quite powerful to the community,” she said.

When the position was created, officials said it would “provide ongoing recognition of creativity and the accomplishments of Lewiston youth,” as well as acknowledge the value of the arts.

The youth poet laureate is expected to participate in various school and city ceremonial occasions throughout the student’s term in office, including writing and reciting an original poem at the city’s inauguration ceremony.

Victor performed at the city’s inauguration in December with a poem based on his interactions with an elderly woman he met at a local nursing home.

Emmert said she might be asked to perform during the high school’s graduation ceremony this year, which she said could be a “meaningful” send-off for a class that contains a number of friends.

A written statement provided to Emmert with her appointment Tuesday read: “Her passion for poetry and the spoken word is inspiring, and we look forward to what she will share with the community. Sharing her voice in such meaningful and thought-provoking ways is truly a gift to Lewiston.”

Ryleigh Emmert performs an original poem during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. (Submitted photo)

Emmert said Thursday that while she has written poetry for many years, this year was her first experience with the Poetry Out Loud competition. She pushed herself to get more involved in creative outlets this year, like poetry and theater, she said.

She said she was lucky to have participated in activities with Victor before he graduated, calling him “really talented.”

Among the letters Cayer received recommending Emmert for the position was one from Dottie Perham-Whittier, Lewiston’s community relations coordinator and adviser to the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council.

She said Emmert, who is also a member of the youth council, is “a class act,” a team player and “proud of her community.”

Cayer said Thursday he also considered Emmert’s academic accomplishments, which include high honors and several school awards. Emmert is also her class president and participates in eight extra-curricular programs, including mock trial.

Jake Langlais, principal of Lewiston High School, said Emmert is an outstanding student who has achieved high honors in each academic quarter, and has twice been selected student of the month.

Cayer made sure to mention Tuesday that Emmert also has a part-time job on the weekends.

Emmert will serve in the position until 2022.

According to the original council resolve, the mayor is authorized to appoint a resident of Lewiston who is an elementary or secondary school student to the position, with the appointment made by the mayor following each regular municipal election.

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