Mount Madonna School
491 Summit Road Mount Madonna CA 95076
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Two Students Win National Writing Competition
By Haley Campbell (’02)
This winter Mount Madonna School’s high school participated in Yes! Magazine’s
National Student Writing Competition. There were six winners chosen from 2,000 submissions, and two of the winners are part of our community.
Mara Peruzzi was one of three Powerful Voice Winners.
Imogen Cockrum was the winner of the high school category (out of 727 students).
For their final writing project of the first semester, all high school English students read and responded to the Yes! Magazine
article, “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre.”
“In this story, founder and director of Sacred Stone Camp, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard describes how her identity, history and survival are intrinsically connected to the land—and water—that is being threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. To protect this place, Allard says they have no choice but to stand up.” (Yes! Magazine)
Students then responded to the prompt: Describe how you would feel if a place that defines you was threatened to be destroyed or taken away. What would you do? Would you fight to save it?
As the competition rules dictated, I could choose three essays from each class to submit to the competition. There were many excellent essays, so it was very difficult to narrow down the selection. The essays I chose stood out to me as exceptional; they illuminated each student’s passion with a strong voice and powerful grasp of language.
The following students’ essays were submitted to the competition:
Jahnakai Willis, 9th
grade, “Dance: My Passion, My Life”
AnMei Dasbach-Prisk, 9th
grade, “Learning is Life”
Braeden Will, 9th
grade, “Finding Where I’ve Always Been”
Noah Kaplan, 10th
grade, “The Ancient Feud”
Imogen Cockrum, 10th
grade, “Half of Who I Am”
Mara Peruzzi, 10th
Phoebe Grant, 11th
grade, “A Place That Defines All of Us”
Brigg Busenhart, 11th
grade, “The Ride”
Carl Ward, 11th
grade, “Taking the Stage”
Aki’o Nanamura, 12th
grade, “Onstage, Behind, and In the Mind”
Tara Ching, 12th
grade, “The Untouchable Hill”
Izabella Thomas, 12th
grade, “My Home Will Stay My Home”
On the day that I learned that Mara and Imogen were two of only six winners out of 2,000 submissions, I ran into the Upper Campus Assembly Room and interrupted Sampad Kachuck’s performing arts class. I had to share the good news! I later found out that in addition to Mara and Imogen’s accomplishments, several other students’ essays were honored:
Brigg, Carl, Izzy, and Tara’s essays were chosen as Literary Gems, wherein a selection from their essays is published with the winning essays. Aki’o, Tara, and Noah were all told that they had been finalists.
I am constantly wowed by the stories, poems, and essays I read in the classroom, but it is such an amazing honor for our students’ work to be recognized on such a grand scale.
Read the published winning essays and Literary Gems
(Mount Madonna School, CA, 2/8/2017) — The Seed of Flame, an environmental STEM project undertaken by a team of seventh grade students at Mount Madonna School (MMS), is one of 16 finalists nationwide to receive a $10,000 prize through the 2016-17 air and climate Lexis Eco Challenge.
Now in its tenth year, the national Lexus Eco Challenge is intended to encourage middle and high school students in developing and implementing environmental programs that positively impact their communities. Participating student teams can enter either or both of the initial challenges addressing environmental issues related to land and water and/or air and climate.
Contest sponsors Lexus and Scholastic chose 16 finalists nationwide for each challenge. Each team receives $10,000 in grants and scholarships, and is invited to participate in a final challenge, with a chance to win one of two $30,000 grand prizes. In addition, eight first-place prizes of $15,000 will be granted, with a total of $500,000 presented.
“Mount Madonna’s seventh grade has taken on this project in response to our changing climate,” said MMS science teacher Katrina Leni-Konig. “As part of the final challenge, we are engaging social media and art activism to raise awareness about local impacts, and to catalyze global action.”
The students have launched a social media challenge on Instagram, @seed_of_flame. The public is invited to post pictures of themselves or others hugging a tree, with the hashtag “#hugatree”. Select photographs will be compiled into a public art exhibit.
The challenge will be used to raise money for the organization, Trees for the Future, through the student’s online fundraising campaign at https://donate.trees.org/seedOFflame
. The goal is to raise $640 which is enough to help a family in Africa grow and maintain a forest garden, providing food security and enhancing environmental resources for generations.
In addition to #hugatree, students are creating a film collection of people around the world planting trees, and are reaching out to communities across the globe to participate. They have also created a YouTube video, “Seed of Flame Claymation,” and are in the process of creating a video game.
Last fall, this 10-student MMS team participated in the initial air and climate challenge. Inspired by the Loma Fire, a nearby wildfire that occurred in fall 2016, they developed an action plan that can benefit their local community by transforming a school greenhouse into a forest nursery to restore forests after wildfire, disease, and other human impacts.
“We need to understand that wildfires are a necessary part of our forest ecosystem, but climate change is making it more difficult for forests to regenerate on their own,” commented MMS science teacher Katrina Leni-Konig. “Wildfires in California are larger, burn hotter, last longer, and are more frequent than usual. The forests need our help!"
Students began a small seed bank in their science classroom, with seeds gathered from the forest property surrounding the MMS campus. Once established, the forest nursery and seed bank will serve as an ongoing educational resource for the school and broader community. At present, the students estimated that the forest seed bank contains thousands of seeds including acorn, redwood, manzanita, madrone, and coyote bush.
“I love that we will be able to help the community restore what forest was lost in the fire,” said seventh grader Alyssa Manzur.
Students are planning to plant the seeds in their forest nursery before spring time. Once established, the plants will be transplanted to areas needing restoration at Mount Madonna, as well as coordinating with Cal Fire in regards to a restoration project at the Loma Fire site. Students are planning to provide plants for habitat restoration, as well as installing equipment to measure erosion.
Plans are also underway to offer a week-long summer camp for middle school students to learn about forest ecology, stewardship, and human impacts to be held at MMS. To learn more about their project, visit sites.google.com/mountmadonna.org/theseedofflame/
The Lexus Eco Challenge is part of The Lexus Pursuit of Potential, a philanthropic initiative that generates up to $3 million in donations each year for organizations that help build, shape, and improve children's lives.
“Through our actions,” commented Konig, “perhaps we can cultivate thinkers and doers that can help to solve what I believe is humanity’s greatest challenge of our time.”