Listening to youth amid the pandemic

Writing contest gives a voice to middle-schoolers

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/5/21

Listen — a simple concept, but one that has not been afford as often to youth lately. That is why Resilience1220, Evergreen Country Day School and HearthFire Books decided to do something about it …

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Listening to youth amid the pandemic

Writing contest gives a voice to middle-schoolers

Posted

Listen — a simple concept, but one that has not been afford as often to youth lately.

That is why Resilience1220, Evergreen Country Day School and HearthFire Books decided to do something about it — hosting a writing contest for middle-schoolers with the simple theme of “Listen.” About 100 students entered from schools in Evergreen, Conifer, and the Clear Creek, Platte Canyon and Gilpin school districts, and the top eight were announced at an outdoor ceremony at the bookstore.

The submission topics ran the gamut from the pandemic to school to being home to the outdoors. Students in fifth through eighth grade wrote about finding strength, focusing on family and thanking teachers.

“The essays were heartfelt,” said Laura Thompson-Beato, who coordinated the contest for Resilience1220, which provides therapy sessions to youth 12 to 20. “Many of them turned around (the negative) and talked about what they learned.”

Kabe ErkenBrack, head of school at Evergreen Country Day School, added that many essays were about hope.

“Almost everyone came with a positive take-away,” he said. “There were some cool stories.”

The problem with the pandemic, Thompson-Beato said at the outdoor awards ceremony at HearthFire Books on April 26, is that it silenced kids’ voices. The writing contest gave kids a chance to express those feelings.

Molly Hochmuth, an eighth grader at Evergreen Country Day School, took first place for a poem she wrote about being stereotyped for being a female.

“I refuse to believe that my gender makes me worth less,” she wrote. “I refuse to think that I am worthless. … But society can’t tell me I can’t love myself.”

Fourteen judges, including eight advanced writing students at Evergreen High School, read and scored the essays, said Thompson-Beato, who thanked the students for entering. Winners received gift cards to reward their efforts.

“Thank you for writing these essays,” she said. “(The judges) were moved by your words. We were listening.”

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