By DIANE SPEER
News Lifestyles Editor
Nearly 300 student entries were submitted for this year's Peace Contest that is held in conjunction with the annual 30 Days of Peace.
Honoring the winners of the contest is one of the final events of the month-long peace initiative undertaken by the Alpena Coalition for Peace. Students in area schools were asked to creatively interpret the contest theme which this year was, "A Peacemaker is One Who Reverences and Cares for All Persons, All Creatures and All Creation."
"There was really nice work done this year," said Alpena Coalition for Peace member Jim DesRocher. "I'm impressed with how the contest has grown over the years. The artwork is getting so much better and the thought processes are getting more intense."
Taking first place in the elementary level of the contest was Besser School fifth grader Gabrielle Bourgeois. Second place went to Ben LeFave, a fourth grader at All Saints School, and third place was given to Amelia Berles, a third grader at Ella White.
Ten honorable mention awards also were presented at the elementary level. They included: Hannah Allen, third grade, Ella White; Tara Myers, home school; Justice Carter, fifth grade, Besser; Angelina Burcar, third grade, Besser; Benjamin Adamiak, third grade, Besser; Hannah Burger, fourth grade, All Saints; Xavier Rouleau, fifth grade, Besser; Jacob LeFave and Joshua Pokorzynski, fourth grade, All Saints; Mrs. Grochowski's class, K-1, All Saints; and Heather Winfield, grade 2-3, All Saints.
Priya Pokorzynski, a seventh grader at Thunder Bay Junior High, took first place at the junior high level. Calib Burger, a sixth grader at All Saints, received second place honors.
Three third place awards were given out for junior high students participating in the contest. The third place winners included: Matthew Hautea, sixth grade, All Saints; James Shultz, sixth grade, All Saints; and Emily Kozlowski, seventh grade, Thunder Bay Junior High.
Alpena Coalition for Peace member Carol Skiba said she is thankful for the participation not only of the students, but also of the teachers and administration at each of the six schools involved in the contest.
"So much depends on the motivation of the teachers," Skiba said. "The teachers inspire and encourage the students to participate in the contest. And the administration the superintendent's office was supportive right from the very beginning. We are grateful to all of those."
According to DesRocher, the 30 Days of Peace initiative takes a broad look at issues involving peace and encourages people to pursue peace at multiple levels in the family, in the local community, in the nation and in the world. He also said the students benefit from seeing their parents support peace efforts.
"Kids need to see adults standing up for peace," DesRocher said. "There is a real danger of children growing up and thinking that war is the only option. They won't understand that peace is an option unless someone puts it in their heads."
This year marked the fifth one for the contest to be held in local schools. Entries featured poetry, sculpture, posters, paintings, origami, DVD presentations, mobiles, photographs and essays.
Like her fellow Alpena Coalition for Peace supporters, Sally Buza sees participating students each year gaining a better understanding of the concept of peace.
"The students' artworks really show a deeper understanding since we first started the contest," Buza said.
Through their involvement, Buza hopes the young people also gain an appreciation for their place in the world and for their ability to make a difference.
"Our Peace Coalition is not just a cause in which we believe," she said. "We try to foster the idea that we are brothers and sisters in the world/global community. We want to cultivate an awareness that what happens to one of us affects all of us and we can make a difference by the manner in which we approach conflict situations whether they occur locally or globally."
Everyone who submitted a Peace Contest entry was presented with free coupons to McDonald's and Downtown Scoops, courtesy of both businesses. The first place winners received a $50 cash prize. Other cash prizes were $25 for second place, $10 for third place and $5 for honorable mention.
The entries by the students currently are on display at the Alpena Mall.