Com­mis­sion for Women honors po­etry con­test win­ners

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

Stu­dents in Charles County took the pop­u­lar phrase YOLO — you only live once — and used it to make oth­ers aware of an is­sue im­pact­ing many fam­i­lies in South­ern Mary­land. Mid­dle school stu­dents, in par­tic­u­lar, are say­ing no to drugs — and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to do so as well.

The Charles County Com­mis­sion for Women held a po­etry con­test for the county’s mid­dle school stu­dents in honor of Red Rib­bon Week, Oct. 23-31, spon­sored by Na­tional Fam­ily Part­ner­ship. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Fam­ily Part­ner­ship, Red Rib­bon Week is a cause to mo­bi­lize com­mu­ni­ties to ed­u­cate youth and en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion in drug preven­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Typ­i­cally what hap­pens dur­ing Red Rib­bon Week is kids will make posters about drug aware­ness and drug preven­tion so we wanted to chal­lenge the stu­dents by do­ing a po­etry con­test in­stead,” said Max­ine Somerville, chair of the com­mis­sion for women. “We chose mid­dle school stu­dents be­cause they are in that awk­ward po­si­tion. They have a lot more new chal­lenges than they did in el­e­men­tary school and we thought that was the right pop­u­la­tion to catch in terms of talk­ing about drug preven­tion and drug aware­ness be­fore they get to high school.”

“In mid­dle school, you can re­al­ize the im­por­tance of stay­ing away and say­ing no to drugs and al­co­hol,” said Stephanie Bynum, vice chair of the com­mis­sion. “Some of the stu­dents’ po­ems seemed re­ally per­sonal. I learned that there are a lot kids who are us­ing drugs. My ad­vice is for par­ents to lis­ten to their chil­dren be­cause some of those po­ems in­di­cated that they are pay­ing at­ten­tion to even those in their fam­i­lies who are us­ing drugs.”

The com­mis­sion part­nered with the Charles County Public Schools to co­or­di­nate the po­etry con­test, since the com­mis­sion has been work­ing in the ad­vo­cacy ar­eas of home­less- ness, WE Mat­ters (women em­pow­er­ment) is­sues and youth for the last few years.

Somerville said all of the prin­ci­pals were en­gaged and on board to help ac­com­plish their mis­sion.

“We went to ever y school to per­son­ally de­liver the win- ner’s cer­tifi­cate,” Somerville said. “Ev­ery stu­dent who par­tic­i­pated re­ceived a cer­tifi­cate of par­tic­i­pa­tion and a gift cer­tifi­cate to Texas Road­house. The con­test had 125 en­tries from all of the eight mid­dle schools who par­tic­i­pated.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion chose one win­ner per school, who was awarded a $25 Amer­i­can Ex­press gift card do­nated by St. Charles Towne Cen­ter. Somerville said the Wal­dorf mall will also dis­play the win­ner’s po­etry on its com­mu­nity bul­letin board to high­light the stu­dents’ achieve­ments.

“The ones that stood out to me were the stu­dents who put their heart and soul into what YOLO re­ally means to them,” Somerville said. “‘You only live once’ was the theme so they re­ally had to think about what drugs do to their body, what drugs do to their mind and what drugs pre­vent an in­di­vid­ual from do­ing. You only have one life to live and I think as a re­sult of the com­pe­ti­tion, we made them aware of what the po­ten­tial for their lives could be with­out drugs.”

Ron­nie Rich­mond, coun­selor at Gen­eral Small­wood Mid­dle School, said the con­test is a good way to help ed­u­cate stu­dents early so that they can avoid some of those pit­falls and not let drugs neg­a­tively im­pact their lives.

“My poem men­tioned things that most drugs can do to your body. Since the theme was YOLO, I also brought up how you shouldn’t have sui­ci­dal thoughts or harm your body,” said Olivia Aheron, 11, a sixth grader at Gen­eral Small­wood Mid­dle School. “I just don’t think peo­ple think about how bad the risks re­ally are when you do drugs.”

“I did the poem be­cause my aunt used to take drugs and I felt like writ­ing down how I felt about it,” said Tru Glot­felty, 11, a sixth grader at Pic­cow­axen Mid­dle School. “I tried to write down all the feel­ings that I had and I felt sad. It’s not good to do drugs at all be­cause it could re­ally harm your body.”

“I wrote about how drugs can hurt you and hurt those close to you,” said Holly Lewis, 13, a sev­enth grader at John Han­son Mid­dle School. “I want peo­ple to know that drugs are just a bad idea in gen­eral and that is one ex­pe­ri­ence that you don’t want to have. My best friend who used to live next door to me, her mother smoked and [her] mother passed away two years ago, and that’s why I wanted to write the poem.”

Susan McCormick, prin­ci­pal of John Han­son, said she is very proud of all of the par­tic­i­pants.

“It’s a mes­sage that we can’t say too of­ten, that drugs are dan­ger­ous,” McCormick said. “I’m glad the stu­dents took the as­sign­ment se­ri­ously and they re­ally had some great ideas in their po­etry.”

Other win­ners in­cluded Emily Win­kler, sev­enth grader at Milton Somers Mid­dle School; Kennedy Ford, eighth grader at Theodore Davis Mid­dle School; Cate Rut­ter, sixth grader at Matthew Hensen Mid­dle School; Taliyah Ricks, eighth grader at Ben­jamin Stod­dert Mid­dle School; and Shakiya Pel­ham, sixth grader at Mat­ta­woman Mid­dle School.

The stu­dents hope oth­ers will be in­spired when they see the win­ners’ po­ems dis­played at the mall.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Win­ner Cate Rut­ter, sixth grader at Matthew Hensen Mid­dle School, re­ceived her cer­tifi­cate from the Charles County Com­mis­sion for Women on Nov. 11.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Win­ner Tru Glot­felty, 11, a sixth grader at Pic­cow­axen Mid­dle School, re­ceived her award for win­ning the po­etry con­test on Nov. 15 from the Charles County Com­mis­sion for Women.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

The Charles County Com­mis­sion for Women pre­sented win­ner Olivia Aheron, 11, a sixth grader at Gen­eral Small­wood Mid­dle School, with her prizes and cer­tifi­cate on Nov. 11.

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