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Camille Martin and Friends of the Library Put On Poetry Celebration for Broncos--By Nina Gerardi

Speaking our minds takes courage. Whether it is wanting to present an unconventional perspective or display a meaningful message about a group of good friends, people often struggle to get their personal thoughts out there, much less find an outlet to do so. Now that stay-at-home orders are in place and face-to-face discussions are scarce, those struggles may be present more than ever.

However, there are people like Teacher Librarian Camille Martin and the volunteers of Friends of the Library organization who are fighting this dilemma. On April 28, they found a way for students to be able to present poetry in their online poetry contest celebration.

“It’s always nice to see students . . . break out of the box and do things that they’re passionate about,” Martin said, who promoted the contest and organized the submission process before quarantine protocol was set in place.

Traditionally, the poetry contest at RB high takes place every year, and it is run by Martin and Friends of the Library, an organization that buys books and furniture for RB High. In the contest, students who want to express themselves are welcome to submit poetry, and they accept poems in English, German, Spanish and French.

After the poems are all submitted, there is a celebration, where students get the chance to share their poetry in the Performing Arts Center. When COVID-19 quarantining came, however, Martin and Friends of the Library realized that coming together in that manner was no longer a possibility.

“We would love to have a celebration of any kind, but we just didn't know how to,” Martin said.

After a student emailed asking about the celebration, Martin and Friends of the Library realized that, despite the circumstances, students still wanted to come together. They decided to hold a zoom call for the participants who still wanted to share their poetry. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to choose winners this year because hard copies were unavailable to the senior judges, but nevertheless, students like senior Danielle Manlapid were still excited to share without picking winners.

“It gave me a rush because I like putting my work out there, so it was very nice,” Manlapid said. “It was very gratifying.”

The theme for this year’s contest was hero, and Manlapid used the theme unconventionally, exploring how society sometimes pressures people to give up everything and how that affects mental health.

“If you keep on giving away you never really care for yourself in general. . .” Manlapid said. “I just sort of wanted to explore thatthe harm that can be brought to you if you keep on trying to become the hero.”

Brianna Floyd, another senior and a student representative of Friends of the Library, used the hero theme to describe her friends in a Spanish poem. According to Floyd, her poem was about her friends being her heroes, and she presented characteristics of a hero and how her friends exemplified those traits.

“It’s nice to be able to share your feelings, especially through something where everybody’s sharing their feelings . . .” Floyd said, “[because] it’s not just one person out there telling.”

According to Martin, the celebration went well. Approximately 20 students came, and many students shared their work.

“I was actually surprised at how many wanted to share their work,” Martin said, “which was excellent and inspiring for . . . everybody who participated, because even the ones in different languages, . . . [were] really beautiful to listen to.”

Afterward, Martin presented a haiku activity for everyone, where she made a makeshift haiku prompt from words she’d rolled in a dice game.

“It was fun,” Floyd said. “It was a neat challenge. Haikus are very short, but very hard. . . I think this was a one-time, special thing.”

In these difficult times, being able to express ourselves may be important in keeping us together and connected. Through Martin and Friends of the Library, students had the opportunity to speak out and share their thoughts. Martin has put an Ebook together that displays all the poetry that was submitted in the contest. According to Martin, she’s currently working on obtaining copyright permissions for it through Creative Commons so participants’ poetry can be shared and protected.

“I’m just so thankful for the students that submitted . . .” Martin said, “It’s a struggle for everybody . . . we’re learning a lot about ourselves and about how to deal with the future and strategies on how to take care of everybody . . . I hope people know that there are people at school [for those who] are struggling.”


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