By Joan Wilson
The Sassafras Literary Exchange Youth Writing Contest Awards presentation was held at the Pickens County Library on Tuesday, April 9, 2012. In addition to the recipients, the audience included parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, writers and local media. Pickens County Progress columnist, Alan Gibson, emceed the program. Members of the Sassafras Literary Exchange shared their personal school experiences and made award presentations.
This year’s theme was The Compassionate Classroom. Students of Jasper Middle School, Pickens Middle School and Pickens County High School were invited to submit poetry, non-fiction or fiction works that discussed compassion, empathy and kindness in a learning environment. Some chose to write about bullying, a current topic in many schools, and how it can be addressed through caring.
The judges found most of the more than 300 entries to be creative, thoughtful and well written.
Sassafras Literary Exchange members wish to thank the teachers and school administrators who provided valuable support to this years Youth Writing Contest. Their help and encouragement of the students was reflected in the high volume and quality of the entries received.
The Sassafras Literary Exchange is a 30-year-old organization dedicated to nurturing young writers and enhancing the writing skills of its members. Sassafras members sponsor the Youth Writing Contest each spring and the Adult Writing Contest each fall.
Sassafras Literary Exchange meetings are held at the Sharptop Arts Association Building at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month and are open to beginning writers and those seasoned in the craft. Attend one of their meetings. See what the Exchange is all about.
First-Place = A Friend is Forever- by Macy Gallagher of PCMS
Second Place = The Envious Classroom – by Joseph Meaders of PCMS
Third Place = The Life Changing Story – by Shelby Whitehill of Jasper Middle School
Compassion – by Katelean Beck of PCMS
Compassion – Dedicated to Rachel Scott – by Meghan Durham
Compassion in the Classroom – by Ethan Turner of PCMS
Bullying- by Joseph Angelisont of JMS The Classroom: A Haven for Compassion – by Adam John Ward of Wildwood Christian Academy
First Place = I Was A School Bully – By Andres Torres of PCMS
Second Place = Kyle and Jasmine – by Dalton Crowe of PCMS
Third Place = Rage by Kelsey Essig of JMS
We are all Human – Emily McNair of PCMS
Young Doctor – by Jackson Leake of PCMS
Devyn – Alexis Swofford of PCMS
My Good Deed – by Stephen Jordan of PCMS
An Act of Kindness – by Maddi Adams of PCMS
High School First Place = The Impractical Mission – by Emily Wheeler of PCHS
Middle School First Place = Never Again – by Mallory Wheeler of JMS
Middle School Second Place = One Act of Kindness – by Aileen Maddux of JMS
Middle School Third Place = The Compassionate Classroom – by Kaitlen Redman of JMS
New – by Baylee Jordan of JMS
Excitement – by Ariel Hayes of PCMS
The Girl on the Bus – by Sierra Stanfield of JMS
Original Masterpiece –by Madeline Pool of PCMS
By Macy Gallagher of PCMS
I always believed that if you are nice, you will always be able to make new friends. Well, with me that rule came into effect a few weeks ago. When I thought I had lost all my friends, only to make a new one.
A friend is forever… a friend is forever… I’m trying to think of what next to put into my poem. Mrs. Burs is very strict about our assigned work. And if I don’t have this in by Monday, I don’t know what would happen. I have never been a good writer, much less a poet, but I’m trying to think of what to put next when a shadow blocks my view. It turns out I’ve been in the girls’ locker room since the bell rang, and I’m not so sure the soccer team enjoys my company. So much for getting to class early I think in my head as I stand up to leave. I accidentally bump into the shadow girl when I stand up. “Excuse me” I say in my small wimpy voice. “ Hey” a big rough hand falls on me pulling me back into the danger I know I’m about to face. I backed away and hurried out of the room before she got a better grip on my arm.
As I walk into my first class for the day everyone is huddled into their own little friend groups all around. I wanted so badly to go and join one of those groups. Like that would ever happen.
The rest of the day was the same old routine. Out to the hall. Shoved by some guy at my locker. Made fun of by the “popular” girls. I just wish it would stop. I mean, what did I ever do to them? I don’t understand why people get judged by the outside. Seriously, you don’t have to be pretty or popular to be nice.
On the way to the bus, I see another girl that I have never seen before. I caught her looking at me but she quickly turned away. I made an attempt to talk to her. But she probably would not talk to me. On the bus she came over to me. “Is it ok if I sit here?” “Umm… sure” I say we were silent for a while, but after a few minutes she turned to me” I’m Abby” she said “hi I’m Clair” we started talking and it turns out she is a lot like me. Her favorite color is purple, and she hates broccoli, just like me! The next day I knew what my poem would be for Mrs. Burs. As I got up to read I started shaking. But I saw my new friend in the back of the room, and I got a new burst of inspiration. And I started to read:
A friend is forever
Like a picture frame of a flower
Even if the real thing isn’t there
It is always with you
For the people that judge from the outside
Some are like pineapples
Even if the outside is prickly and ugly
The inside is always sweet
I Was A School Bully –
By Andres Torres of PCMS
My name is Jared Wells, and I was a school bully. I was the meanest around, with all the other bullies afraid to be within five feet of me. I would be in the principal’s office every other day, for one reason or another, despite being a bright student. I used to be that way until, well, one of my victims committed suicide.
It was my junior year of high school, halfway through the second semester. I was sitting in my homeroom class with my two best “friends” (more like lackeys) when the principal walks in with a new student. “This is our newest student, Miss Kona Li,” proclaims the principal, “She will be in this homeroom.” With that, he strode out of the room into the hall and disappeared. Once he left the room I started making faces at the new girl, trying to get other people to laugh; it had the desired effect (sadly). At lunch, I made jokes about her nationality (she was Chinese) and eventually she left the lunch room early.
This kind of behavior lasted for several weeks at least, non-stop, always cracking a joke or insult at her. Then, one morning, it all changed. I come to school, expectantly waiting for my latest victim, but she did not come. Even when the late bell rung, she never showed up. You see, Kona Li always showed up early (later than me, of course) and would sit down to finish whatever she didn’t finish last night (which was next to nothing). I hazarded a guess that she was just sick, and I waited. For several days, I patiently waited. Nothing happened. I finally decided to go to the principal to ask why she was gone. He looked at me with an expression that appeared halfway between anger and despair. There was a great period of silence. “She’s dead,” he said at last, “she committed suicide several days ago.” It was like I got hit by a truck; it was my fault.
After that, I pointedly told my “friends” that I would not bully a single person again. Kona Li’s suicide hung over me so much that I could not sleep at night. I finally decided to go on a crusade to stop bullying, or else another person would commit suicide. I organized a statewide trip to speak about my actions, and how I ruined Kona Li’s life. I told thousands of students to not be like me: to not bully.
Kyle and Jasmine
By Dalton Crowe of PCMS
Hi my name is Kyle Monet. I am a thirteen year old boy from True Breeze, Illinois. My mom says I have gorgeous blue eyes and soft brown hair. I wouldn’t know that though because of my “irrational fear of mirrors” at least that’s what the doctors say. The actual reason is because I am afraid that what I see in it will be ugly.
When I was six years old I was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. They gave me about 15 years to live, possibly 16, if I was healthy enough. They told my parents that even if I do go into treatment there is only a twenty percent chance I will live through the treatment or surgery. Sounds pretty bad right? I bet you’re wondering if there is anything good in my life. Well there is something. Well not even something, but someone her name is Jasmine Air. Everything about her is perfect from her caring, ocean, blue eyes, to her straight, brilliant, shining, black hair. She makes all A’s in school, is very nice to everyone and is my best friend in the world. Actually she is the only one I have left… She is always there for me. The biggest example of that is actually a long story.
Jasmine and I were in the 4th grade, both of us were in Mrs. Marvin’s class. One day on our classes’ turn on the playground; I went over to my special spot just like always. It is in the top right corner of the playground, where I could see everyone like the girls with their curly blonde perfumed disgusting looking hair gossiping about who knows what. Or the lonely boy on the swings that was always pale. I could smell all the good things behind the playground like the blossoming cherry trees, the sweet honey smells, and the little poppy flowers. Everything was perfect until I had one of those bad things… A seizure.
I started convulsing harder than usual which is a sign that something was seriously wrong. I fell to the ground shaking rapidly, Jasmine came running over, everything was blurry, and time seemed to slow down. Blurrier, blurrier and blurrier, Jasmine was on her phone I guess calling 9-1-1, other kids were running towards me, and others running towards the teacher. The teacher was running towards me too. Then I blacked out. When I awoke it was still and quiet around me. It was a weird kind of waking up I felt sort of floaty then, I looked down and I saw the ambulance and Jasmine hopping in the back to ride along with my mom who worked as a nurse for the responding hospital. Then I rolled over on my back. It felt like I was being carried up by clouds. I saw Angels above me with their arms outstretched, one of them picked me up. She smelled cinnamony like the cinnamon buns my mom and I used to make. Another one stood behind me and stroked my hair out of my eyes her skin felt soft and smooth like Jasmines. They told me it wasn’t my time and that the Lord was blessing me to live longer. I started to cry I didn’t want them to leave me because it felt so good being there with them but they put me down anyway. I woke up again not feeling floaty any more. I heard words coming out of the paramedics while drifting in and out of consciousness.
In “Vital signs are l” Out
In “but he’s my baby” Out
In “there is nothing we can do” Out
In “Please NO!” Out
The next thing I know I’m at the hospital my mom, Jasmine, her dad Marcos, and mom Julia. When they see me wake up Jasmine’s parents start to leave. Apparently they made a deal with my mom that when I woke up that they were going to leave. Jasmine obviously didn’t want to go because she began to cry. Her parents ask her what is wrong and she says to them.
“What’s wrong is that Kyle is my friend and he almost DIED today and as soon as you see him open his eyes you start to leave and trust me if you do I will never ever forgive you!”
Or something like that my hearing isn’t the greatest after almost dying you know. But whatever she said, it must have convincing because Jasmine never left me alone for even 2 seconds.
Even on the next day after the doctors released me to go home Jasmine came over bringing along with her soup chocolate and a “Percy Jackson” book to read until I felt better
I knew that going to school again was going to be scary but I know I’ll be fine as long as she’s there.
The Impractical Mission
by Emily Wheeler of PCHS
Have you heard of the tale, from the school down the block?
About how one man sent some folks into shock?
He did what most thought could not be achieved
By helping some wild students learn to succeed.
It was said that this class just couldn’t be taught
They refused all the teachers the principal had brought
Until a stranger mysteriously blew into town,
Claiming he would finally calm this class down.
The principal directed him to the infamous class
And warned him of fears that the kids wouldn’t pass.
He reassured the principal that when he was done,
That all would be passing, each and every last one.
He entered the class and told them his name
And said, “Personally, I think it is such a shame
That many of you think that learning is lame.
But after I am through, you won’t think the same.
The first subject I will teach today is math,
A skill you’ll need for your future career path.”
The class moaned and groaned, and refused to obey.
They suggested this stranger should just go away.
The man was not discouraged by the class’s reactions.
He turned to the white board to begin teaching of fractions.
He drew a circle and divided it into eighths.
Then he pointed to the front at a boy named Nate.
He asked, “Young man, I ask this of you,
Could you tell me what’s left if I took away two?”
Nate gave the stranger a puzzled look,
Then began to flip frantically through this math book.
“Math isn’t that hard,” said the mysterious man
As he reached under his desk and pulled out a pan.
The class gasped as they saw what was inside.
It was a delicious-looking chocolate silk pie.
The man sliced the pie equally in eighths
And gave the first piece respectively to Nate.
He told the class of the number given,
And also told of the remaining seven.
“There are seven-eighths of the pie remaining left.
Tell me how much is there if I give one to Jeff.”
“Six-eighths!” cried the class with excitement and glee,
As each of them thought, “Will he give a piece to me?”
The man taught and distributed with the rest of the pie
And the class was beginning to like the new guy.
The final subject he taught for the day was English,
A subject so difficult it caused the class stress.
The class got rowdy and refused to work.
The man said, “That’s what you thought of math, at first.
I’ll prove to you all that English is fun.
I’m sure you’ll all like it before the day is done.”
They opened their textbooks to page five seventy-three
To a story that would teach them of dramatic irony.
“We’re going to act out this story, as if it were a play,
Or just like a movie you’d see this Friday.”
The man drew on the board a jungle backdrop
While he put Bethany in charge of handing out props.
Then he assigned everyone in the class a part
And soon the kids were very eager to start.
The class acted the story the way the man intended,
And they each felt like children as they pretended.
They were going through the jungle, in search of a crown
To return to their queen before it was sundown.
It was now three o’clock and the bell began to ring.
The kids sadly sighed as they gathered their things.
As the months carried on, the students grew smarter.
And towards good grades they each tried harder.
All the folks in the town nearly had cardiac arrests
When each of the students passed their competency tests.