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