The Amazing Fanta Ballo Adds a Touch of Poetry to the Ceremonies

2021 graduate, poet Fanta Ballo performs in a red and black shirt before a grand piano and dark red curtains

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 13, 2021) — Poet, artist, budding economist and advocate for youth Fanta Ballo graduates next week with a degree and a piece of the Commencement spotlight. As part of her farewell to the University, she will help President Rodríguez kick off UAlbany's Virtual Commencement Ceremony on May 20 at 7 p.m. by performing one of her spoken word poems.

The ceremony, which is open to all graduates and their families, will feature highlights from the in-person ceremonies; messages from students, deans, alumni and University leadership; the conferral of degrees; and the lighting of the Torch and passing of the Flame. It will conclude with a joint Candlelighting moment for all attendees that will then be shared in social media.

Ballo, who will receive a Bachelor's degree in Economics at only 19 years old, received her associate’s degree at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, where she was the commencement speaker.

She has performed her poetry at events ranging from protests and rallies to school auditoriums. Ballo has collaborated with artists such as Idina Menzel, Jeanine Tesori, Shihan Van Clief and Ayodele Casel, and champions other young artists with her work. She uses poetry and music to tell her story in the hopes of empowering others to share theirs.

Earlier this year, Ballo was honored as the first recipient of a “Wonder Grant” from the Shawn Mendes Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting those it describes as “creative students who are actively working to change the world with their innovative ideas.”

People magazine covered her award recognition and her story.