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Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Luncheon Features Students’ Poetry

Great Falls Friends and Neighbors name winners of 31st annual poetry contest.

From left, Great Falls Elementary School students Caroline Stock, Laura Gersony, Sonia Toloczko, Alex Marjanovich, Will Kiser, Ana Grajdeanu, Elena Berrios, Muntaha Haq and Maddie Cross, winners in the annual Great Falls Friends and Neighbors poetry contest. Great Falls fifth grader Mary Kurbanov was also a winner, but was unable to attend the Friday, April 26, awards luncheon.

From left, Great Falls Elementary School students Caroline Stock, Laura Gersony, Sonia Toloczko, Alex Marjanovich, Will Kiser, Ana Grajdeanu, Elena Berrios, Muntaha Haq and Maddie Cross, winners in the annual Great Falls Friends and Neighbors poetry contest. Great Falls fifth grader Mary Kurbanov was also a winner, but was unable to attend the Friday, April 26, awards luncheon. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— The Great Falls Friends and Neighbors honored 10 Great Falls Elementary School students Friday, April 16, at their 31st annual poetry luncheon. Three students each from fourth, fifth and sixth grades were honored, and sixth grader Sonia Toloczko was awarded the grand prize for her poem "Just a Dream."

"This means so much to the students in Great Falls, to have their friends and families around to see what they’ve created," said Lisa Spoden, club president. "We had 151 entries this year, which is a fabulous turnout."

The club selected first, second and third place winners from each grade level. Great Falls Elementary Principal Ray Lonnett credited the club for holding the contest every year.

Fourth Grade Division

First place: Ana Grajdeanu, "Sailing"

Second place: Will Kiser, "Yosemite"

Third place: Elena Berrios, "My Life As A Kitten"

Fifth Grade Division

First place: Maddie Cross, "Fox"

Second place: Mary Kurbanov, "The Ring"

Third place: Muntaha Haq, "Lizard Cakes"

Sixth Grade Division

First place: Caroline Stock, "Night Time"

Second place: Alex Marjanovich, "Half Moon Bay"

Third place: Laura Gersony, "Music"

Grand Prize: Sonia Toloczko, "Just A Dream"

"This is a great event because we’re celebrating these kids and their writing," he said. "We’re celebrating it now, and looking forward to what their love of writing will be tomorrow."

Joanne Schilling, a reading specialist at Great Falls Elementary, said the judges have their work cut out for them with the amount of quality entries this year.

"I read some of the poems, and admire the judges for being able to pick some from the wealth of entries," she said. "This is a great partnership we’ve had going for a long time, and we’re hoping it continues for a long time."

The entries were judged by five members of the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors. Pat Kuehnel, one of the judges, said the decisions were very difficult.

"It got to the point where there were seven poems competing for a single spot, and we agonized over our choices, reading them out loud," she said. "We were ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over many poems that weren’t even recognized today, so we hope the students keep writing and submitting to the contest, because we know they’re very talented."

Keeping in the spirit of writing, Kuehnel also took a moment to pay tribute to E.L. Konigsburg, the Newbery Medal-winning children’s author. Konigsburg won the Newbery Medal in 1967 with "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," and a second book "Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth" was the Newbery Medal runner up that year.

She won the award again in 1997 for "The View From Saturday," the longest span between wins for one author. Konigsburg lived in Great Falls with her son Paul for the past few years, before passing away Friday, April 19, at the age of 83.

"She said, ‘kids want to fit in, but they also want to be independent’ and her characters’ adventures are certainly proof of this," Kuehnel said. "If she were here today, she would want our poetry winners to continue to create, observe and feel, but most of all follow their dreams."