2022 Poetry Contest Winners

3-5th Grade Poems

Honorable Mention
by AnnaLee Johnson

My Violin

The joy it is to pick you up every day
Right out of the case ready for me to play
Sometimes very hard to make the right note
Like a sailor learning to sail their boat
When I do it correctly my teacher applauds
It seems as if I almost have a job
Even though this job has no pay
I will keep playing you day after day
The sounds you make are so sweet to hear
Some are sad and make my eyes get tears
I will keep practicing you day after day
I will get better and better each time that I play
Until one day in front of a crowd
On a large stage I will stand tall and proud
to play my violin

Third Place
by Ezra Burrola

A Magician's Ambition

There once was a boy with ambition.
He wanted to be a magician,
He worked really hard,
In his backyard
And he earned himself an audition.

His tricks were so very extreme,
That he made the whole audience scream.
He made it so far,
He was picked as a star
And then he accomplished his dream.

Second Place
by Emme Tilden

Tiny Voice

A ball misses the net
It does not matter to you
Well, at least that's what you say to your friends
Laughing about how bad you are

Then there is a tiny voice
Like a whisper on a noisy street
But it's all you can hear
And it says your not good, YET

You may think that the voice is someone
Maybe a friend
Or a parent
It could be a memory in your head.

But it's not any of them it's you
Wanting to do better
Knowing you can do better
Striving to do better

The voice may be tiny and quiet
It may just be a spark
But if you give it wood to burn
It will grow bigger and louder

That voice is
A fire in your heart
Rising up, wanting more
That is your voice of ambition

First Place
by Nyesha Gupta


Stretching, reaching, leaping, spinning,
Ash flips through the air, almost flying,
But suddenly, she falls, gracefully, yet oddly.
She cries though she is not hurt, for she is angry at
herself for failing.

Theo swings the bat with all his might.
An electric force charges through his veins,
And bat and ball connect, if only for a second.
Then, the ball lands 2 feet away with a thump!

Three days before the concert, viola in hand,
Em's melody sounds like the screech of an owl, ugly to hear.
It is impossible to describe how hard she worked,
And of course, the pain she felt.

Ash tries for her flip again and again,
When the gymnasium closes, she promises to return.
How hard she works, fueled by tears, determination, and fury.
Day after day, week after week, so hard she trains.

The rest of the team laughs so hard,
Rolling their eyes at Theo's inability to hit the ball.
But he wants so much to prove them wrong.
He works like a machine, going at it again and again.

Em goes home every day and refuses to do anything.
She practices for hours on end, crazily almost.
She stays up till midnight, her hands naturally in position.
She will force herself to get it right, no matter what happens.

The night of the gymnastics performance, Ash breathes deep.
She closes her eyes, smiles to herself, and flips.
One flip, two flips, three flips, and she gracefully lands on her feet.
Others will forget her soon, but she will remember this forever.

Theo was calm about the baseball game, understanding that he must not win, but try.
The pitcher threw the ball, predicting already how the team would lose.
But Theo hit it out of the park, and the crowd grew silent, merely staring.
He won the game, happier than he had ever been in his life.

Em was scared, oh yes. She had never been more anxious in her life.
But as the conductor raised his baton, all her fear escaped her.
She played like she had never played before, a sweet, simple tune.
After the orchestra was done, they got a standing ovation.

And Theo and Ash were there, clapping for her too.


6-8th Grade Poems

Honorable Mention
by Spencer Paoloni

The Acceptance:

People say Boys don't cry
What do you think us guys do when someone we care about dies?
What about when our pets die?
You think we stare at them not feeling any emotion
WOW, do you actually believe this?
Boys do cry.
And that is okay, everybody does.
People say Girls are weak
Have you ever heard of Mae Jamison or Rosa Parks
I MEAN Haven't you?
This is not true,
Maybe boys are more muscular
But that does not mean that girls aren't strong emotionally.
We are human,
We are only human
Not aliens, or dogs.
Don't let other people tear you down.
Believe that everything you do will be alright in the world.
Even if its bad or good
You are accepted.

Third Place
by Dylan Rhein

Ride Onward

It starts with you

You control it, like a charioteer commands his horses
Your dreams
Your worries

It starts with you
Look past the past
Into your future
Escape from the shackles of history
You decide, you guide the stallions of your life toward your aspirations

Your choices
What you believe
If you feel that you can not, you will not
Be ambitious with your goals

You have always held the reins
Where will you steer?

Second Place
by Allison Fath


Wasn't mounted
By man in a minute
But by men in months
Became a feat defeated
So overwhelming, so far
Yet overcome it was, just as
The deepest depths of the
Ocean were uncovered
And seen by the eyes
Of those who saw
A door, locked
Turn to hand

First Place
by Natalia Santiago


Her accented voice calls me to attention
I'm no longer just sitting here
I'm bursting with ambition
Thirsting, I drink wisdom
Poured out in my Abuela's kitchen
Mashing banana dreams in her pilon
She feeds me hope
Morsels of perseverance
Coated in orange broth
Ambition's savory flavors
Bubble in her melting pot of dreams
She serves it up to me
And ladles it through el barrio
A simmered soupa
Filled with nostalgia
opening my eyes
Her plans became unfulfilled dreams
Swept away by Maria's wave
But now
I scratch her recipes in my stained marble notebook
Rekindling her postponed passions
As I clumsily mash plantains,
Her broken English reminds me,
Hold on.
Press on.
Be strong."


9-12th Grade Poems

Honorable Mention - 10 awardees
In alphabetical order by first name

Brianna Gallagher, Mountainous Ambition
Iago Macknik-Conde, Sunset
Jayden He, Fester
Jenna Nesky, This Low and Aching Chant
Kate-Younjae Jeong, double-toungued
Madeline Dorman, What do you want to be when you grow up?
Michael Adolf, The Incorporeal Gale
Mollie Mae Nielson, Her
Rehnee Choe, Poppy Seeds
Tanisha Shende, The Promise of a Lonely Astrophysicist

Third Place
by Aryan Grover

Three Intertwining Poems Concerning (You, Ambition)

Ay, you who put me between animal prison cells,
and dragged me from paradise and set me bleeding from my pores,
Why have you given me endless hours to destroy myselves?
Ah, but for a drop of Caesar's blood I would plunge myself into your vacant gasps of hell-

"How can I sit still?" An empty vase I must fill
with flowers, and bequeath the sky with my gaze. Tell
me, how long must a man work to rid himself of suffering? Till
he can paint the road to success with the noisy spills of grit, shrill

and holy in the hopes of bleeding power.
You say you are only a man's dream, like a
harmless, mumbling wish to resurrect one sagging flower-
But you contain a droning loudness, lasting beyond the mortal hour

Now, shave my head, and then undress me,
and look at the disfigured scars I suffered in your name,
where Hamlet is within my mind, shivering, lame
like the body of his forgotten father, see

how you dilute virtuous causes with your tortuous disease,
like a stubborn gargling that protrudes through living quiet-­
Understand! too much of your steely grasp causes the soul to riot,
and the once idealized lion bellows deathly, a thousand screeching banshees-

(Is it you who drapes the dirt with blood?) Look, a young man wears your flag on his shoulder,
whether to war or two feet thumping the ground tirelessly for hours,
or- "Men, the hours of our dogging will be hung dead in the gallows of time, but rest
your hearts and admire what you have erected, what is infinitely ours"

(It is you.) a man yearning to be entrenched in eternal memory,
breaking his will out of his own volition, like a child who persists to catch a stirring
melody, but fails and crumples on the sand.
And your melody! Sticking onto the walls of life like tupelo honey, spurring

me to get caught up in your golden mesh of determination,
hurling me into pits of hell and pits of vivid revolution,
with all myselves caught dancing entranced to our tombs-
but till then, consume me and transport me to perfection, mans' endless Resolution

Second Place
by Pranav Hooda

mouse wheel

the bars of the wheel have dug into my feet and they are bleeding
i 'm in the same spot- the pit i started next to is still there
the person i didn't want to be still inside of
me and my feet- they're bleeding.
i don't remember who said i'd be fed but i'm starving
and i can't step off because
don‘t stop
prison is not the cell it's the window
it's the bars on it
it's the reaching for it
it's the running for it
it's the feet bleeding for it
it's the starving for it
it's the sky visible through it
it's the world waiting outside of it
it's the working for it
and the promise of it
and the people you place in it
the memories you see in it
and the uncertainty of it
i need a promise of it or
or what
feet skin is paper
made to be torn
to be ripped through
to be walked on
to be cut through by the bars on a wheel built to
take you nowhere
let me redraft
feet skin is paper
made for shoes?
made for protecting?
made for playing?
made for stepping through a field and into a view
a window's-eye view
feet skin is paper
because where we walk writes on us
marks us up
colors outside our lines
highlights our important parts (and ends up
highlighting every line)
writes our story stories
can't be written with the bars of a mouse wheel.
scratching paper with these rungs
draws blood, not ink.

First Place
by Xie Yilin


Every shared morning, you woke beside me and told me "I love you
Forever", (why
promise away that which
you never had?) hands-in-hands,
bands-on-fingers, tongues-as-one.

Every shared morning, we journeyed to that
tower, that magnificence of bricks and bitumen, engineered by dreams
of heaven, dreams of name,
dreams of one future.

It shone with glory, in our eyes,
cataracted by white-hot ambition and
His first-day white light. Drunk with
height and sky, we promised to add our marks
to the age-honoured record of builders on the bricks and slime.

No one said it would be
Easy: it was our mortal hands reaching
Heaven Eternal, like a marriage, like our marriage.
No one said it wasn't worth it: we all hauled bricks up and waited below,
people in love nursing a tower to grow.

And so we dreamt on, too strong,
our tower reaching up and up and
your hauls {that unshared mornings) stretching long and long.
I craned my neck back and back towards heaven, towards
you, burning for your descent and your tongue.

And one day, you came down, not our tongue:
you spoke at me, I spoke at you,
and we understood no more.
After years of burial in brick-baking, slime-spreading, baby-raising, after
countless returns, each with
stranger sounds, we were left with silence, horrified,
tentative silence, when your tongue and mine were
fully un-one.

It was no divorce, no death,
no sudden disease or dirty war or night-covered wife-snatching desperado;
it was no Flood. It was a trickle of water against rock,
a day-to-day gentle knifing,
a tickling carve at our tongues.

We dreamt too hot, too high, too heavenstruck,
we dreamt when we shouldn't have, we dreamt when
the best thing was on Earth, beside us, waking.
In losing your tongue I lost myself:
This is the punishment.

Last updated: April 25, 2022

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