NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Peace Poetry Winner

The seventh annual Peace Poetry contest came to a close on Friday night with a reading and award ceremony in the Hartleb Technology Center to honor the participants.

The event began at 6 p.m. with a welcome speech from Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. William Heineman, followed by a keynote address from local performing artist and poet Letriah Masters.
Host and coordinator Paul Saint-Amand then invited each of the participants to the front of the auditorium to read their poem for the audience.

The 300 seat auditorium was nearly full, but even the youngest participants managed to deliver their own individual message of peace with poise and conviction.

After reading their entry, winners were given a certificate by professor Liz Espinoza and received a stem of daisys from NECC student Justin Merced.

This year, the project began in the fall with a contest among Lance Hidy’s Introduction to Digital Photography students to provide the photograph for the poster and cover design. Students and faculty were asked to vote on their favorite entry.

The picture of the hands cupped around the peace sign, submitted by NECC student Nicole Chetsas, won the vote by a landslide. Inspired by her success in this contest, Chetsas is now considering a career in photography.

“I’m going to be switching my major over to it. I’m trying to get into the New England School of Photography,” she said, “I’m taking a year off to save up and build my portfolio.”

The poetry and drawing portion of the contest was open to people of all ages throughout the greater Merrimack Valley area. It began in the fall with the advertising posters at NECC encouraging participation and an invitation to other local schools to submit entries as well.

According to Saint-Amand, about 600 entries were received. The entries were read by student and faculty volunteers who narrowed it down to the final 73 poems and 11 drawings printed in the chap book.

“If we try to put too many pages in, it won’t even close.” Saint-Amand said of the winnowing process.
Among the poems included in the book is, “Imagine“ by local poet laureate Gayle Heney. Formerly the keynote speaker for this same event, Heney now hosts a local television show called “Write Now” in which she interviews successful writers.

“It’s been a great opportunity to ask writers questions that I want to know the answers to,” Heney said. The show airs in Haverhill, Andover, North Andover and Methuen.

Four students from the Islamic Academy for Peace were also included among the accepted entries. This was given to them as a class assignment and it is the first year that they have participated. Selma Dakiri, seventh grader, got the inspiration for her poem by thinking about “How people are treated by their skin color, and how they don’t treat people equally.”

Eighth grader Kelthoum Fathi said that she was thinking about “Simple acts of peace that we do everyday.”

“I wanted to talk about peace in general, all over the world,” said Mahmoud Qesmi, also an eighth grader.

“My poem had a bunch of different languages,” said seventh grader Adiba Ubaidu, “because peace is needed everywhere in the world, so I thought it should be included.”

Their parents said that they are very proud.

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