Rooted & Radical wouldn’t be possible without our community of wonderful volunteers! If you’re interested in joining us as a volunteer for our festival season between February-March 2025, please fill out the form below. You will receive a follow-up in December 2024 to choose your volunteer shift(s) and you will attend a virtual volunteer orientation in January 2025.

If you have any questions about volunteering, please email

Morgan Varnado –
“As an alumni of YCA’s programs it feels nice helping out those who were once in my position. That’s one thing that I love about YCA, it’s a continuous community: older generations of poets aiding the next generation in realizing themselves through poetry. It’s always wonderful to see, and I’m glad I was able to help out as an older member of the community.”

Edjuan Edwards –
“I truly enjoy volunteering with Young Chicago Authors. I first became familiar with this organization when I was a freshman in high school in 2004 where I actually was a participant in the festival formerly known as Louder Than A Bomb. Thanks to this organization I was able to grow out of my shell and they gave me a place that made me feel welcomed. This is also why I continue to volunteer because I enjoy being part of creating safe spaces for youth. I 100% believe in the mission/vision of this organization.”

Cookie Schwartz –
“Connecting with teens can be challenging but not when the topic and project is spoken word poetry. Rooted & Radical offers the chance for teens to speak out directly; writing poetry that captures all the angst and crazy humor, with brutally honest reporting on the world around us through the eyes of young poets. The energy that Rooted & Radical captures is just beautiful. Creating is hard work and there is a dedicated staff to support the student poets. The scaffolding from everyone including teachers, families and of course the other poets, makes the festival successful at all levels. This grannie enjoyed the whole event, from first rounds to Finals. See you next year! All love to staff, students and volunteers.”

Shanlie Ann Stead –
“It’s amazing to be back in a space of creativity like this season’s Poetry Festival, Rooted & Radical. I remember the energy quite fondly from the ’90’s when the first incarnation made room for kids to speak their minds and speak to their potential! It has evolved in such a beautiful way that I feel more inspired now, I would say more so than when I was younger. Everywhere you looked there was a lesson, there was a role model, there was inspiration. Young people speaking their truth whether through pain, honesty, perseverance—or sheer grit! And a shared laughter elevated by pretty powerful words to match. The volunteers and those who work with YCA were there to support the teams, the artists, and volunteers in a way that cultivated a wealth of community and a safe space to welcome young performers making brave art. (How brave it is to get up and speak in front of people? Ask them—they did that!) As a YCA volunteer, I had a great time. I was inspired to write more, I met a lot of cool and talented people, I walked away with friends, and I was infused with the joy of live art. I am more hopeful for the future knowing this event and nonprofits like this exist. So glad I found my way back!”