LA student finalist in poetry, art contest

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By The Staff

Giving a little bit of encouragement can really make a difference. Take Los Alamos Middle eight-grader Ethan Clements, for instance. His GATE teacher last year, TJ Bonzon, and his GATE teacher this year, Caroline Haagenstad, both encouraged Clements to pursue his interest in writing and art as well as to submit his work for publication.


As a result of his teachers’ input, Clements submitted a poem and a watercolor drawing to the River of Words’ 15th annual environmental poetry and art contest. His efforts awarded him a finalist place in the contest as well as an invitation to the recognition ceremony April 17 at the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library in California.

Clements’ mother, Jane, credits Bonzon and Haagenstad for helping her son achieve this success. “Both of those two were really instrumental in encouraging Ethan to do this,” she said.

River of Words’ contest is the largest youth poetry and art competition in the world and is conducted by Berkeley nonprofit River of Words, in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book.

During the recognition ceremony, the free family program will feature children reading their winning poems about the natural world.

Acclaimed Bay Area poet Steven Nightingale will emcee the event along with renowned children’s book author and illustrator, Thacher Hurd. An art exhibit of this year’s winning River of Words’ landscape art by children and youth from around the world will be on view at the event. River of Words will also release the 2010 River of Words anthology, “The Natural World as Viewed Through the Eyes of Young People,” at the ceremony. A book-signing with this year’s winning young poets and artists and a reception follow the reading.  Clements’ artwork will appear in the anthology and copies of the book will be sent to the middle school and Mesa Public Library.

“He’s just delighted,” his mother said, “and very pleased to have his watercolor in the anthology.”

River of Words is a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting literacy, creative expression and community awareness of the most critical environmental concern, water.

River of Words was co-founded by U.S. Poet Laureate (1995-1997) Robert Hass and writer Pamela Michael to help young people make a personal and lasting connection to the environment. River of Words is internationally recognized for its innovative education model that integrates art and poetry in a place-based curriculum. Since 1995, River of Words has encouraged young people to explore and savor the watersheds where they live and has trained educators to guide them with inspiration and passion.