Four Piedmont fifth graders were among 10 contestants selected as Northern California finalists in the American Immigration Council’s “Celebrate America” annual writing contest, and Beach Elementary student Phoebe Kim took home the first place prize and moved on to the final round of judging nationwide.
Susannah Cantrill and Eleanor Hathorn, also from Beach, and Levi Arbit, from Havens Elementary, joined other students and their families at an award ceremony on May 3 in San Francisco.
Held annually since 1996, the writing contest asks fifth graders across the country to reflect on and write about the theme “Why I’m Glad America Is a Nation of Immigrants” or, “What Does It Mean to Be a Welcoming Nation.”
Each finalist read their winning piece aloud at the podium, sharing stories, memories, reflections, and hopes that spanned generations and the globe.
Phoebe’s narrative poem relates her grandmother’s solo journey as a young woman from the Korean countryside to the United States. The poem’s conversational dialogue creates a bridge between Phoebe’s family’s past and the present.
Susannah’s essay asks what it means to be a welcoming nation and asks readers to consider that even small choices can have powerful positive or negative impacts on an immigrant trying to find their footing in a new land.
Levi shared a powerful first person account of his great-grandfather’s harrowing flight from and then participation in the liberation of Auschwitz.
With sparse but evocative language, Eleanor’s poem creates a vivid and affecting picture of one immigrant’s journey as a microcosm of the many journeys that created the United States today.
Ahead of the contest, AILA volunteers visit participating fifth grade classrooms to share stories about their work with immigrants and talk about the continued, important contributions immigrants make to the United States. More information about the contest is available HERE.