at Fairfield University:
“Poetry for Peace” contest winners honored
(Posted to Fairfield.Patch.com 1/18)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – You might say there was a collective peace of mind among the students being honored at Fairfield University’s Aloysius P. Kelley Center early Tuesday evening.
From Bridgeport and Fairfield public and private schools, all were winners of a “Poetry for Peace” contest sponsored by the University’s Humanities Institute; the Offices of Academic Engagement and Student Development; the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration committee; the Peace and Justice Studies program; and the Department of English. In all, just 70 submissions out of more than 1,100 from grades kindergarten through 8th grade were chosen. Each winner was asked to read his or her submission and all winning poetry was published in a booklet that was distributed at the event.
Jerelyn Johnson, co-director of the event and Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Dept. of Modern Languages, noted, “This is the third annual event and each year it continues to grow. In the first year, we had just 400 entries. Students were challenged to interpret what peace means to them. It could be something personal or about wars, violence, drugs, personal loss or even a beautiful walk on the beach.”
Given the abundance of this year’s entries, four grade groupings were created: K-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8 grades. Each flight was judged by undergraduates, faculty and graduate students.
Co-event director Dr. Nels Pearson, an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of English, was glad to provide a forum for the students’ work. “There are so many young voices with so many things to say, and I’m sure they do in their classes, but there’s something great about convening in a public space to share and hear a community of voices.”
Contest winner Kenneth Epps, 12, a student at Our Lady of Assumption Holy Family School in Fairfield, spoke about his submission. “’Peace in a Place’ conveys that there’s always a little bit of peace in any situation or circumstance -- a waterfall in a field of fire or a partnership in a town of separation.”
Luke Giardina, 7, a second grader at Osborn Hill School in Fairfield, said his poem “Peace is Everywhere” relates all his favorite peaceful moments, like watching TV, playing hockey and lying on his bed reading.
On hand to cheer on Giardina and another student was his teacher, Brenda Perry, who said, “I think it was a great opportunity for the kids to have. About half of my class submitted.”
P.J. Rogers, 7, another Osborn Hill 2nd grader, received Second Prize honors in the K-2 category for his poem “A Day Full of Peace.” Rogers said the poem was about quietness – “the machines are at rest, no cars are driving, boats are in the dock.”
Rogers’ dad, Peter, was beaming. “We’re so proud of him. He’s such a good reader and student. The fact that he came up with this in 2nd grade is great.”
Gena Gordon, 13, from Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Bridgeport, wrote “Peacemaker”, which she described as a poem “about one man that has the power to make one situation all about peace.”
Shebian Kamrudin, 9, another Bridgeport student, from John Winthrop, submitted a poem titled “What Is My Peace” and said, “It’s about what you’re feeling when you’re going to do something.”
Byron Spencer, 14, from Waltersville Middle School, also in Bridgeport, said, “My poem ‘Don’t Despair’ is about the comfort I find in music whenever I’m thinking about something I’m afraid of. I’m really excited about being chosen.”
In his opening remarks, Dr. Pearson suggested that the “poems display wisdom, thoughtfulness and humor, but also give us hope.” He also reiterated the entirety of a past poem submitted by a 7th grader, which he felt captured the essence of the concept of peace: “Peace is like a crystal, long desired for and when acquired a treasure to hold but easy to break. One slip of a finger and it’s gone.”