First-grade class wins top award in art contest

The first-grade class at St. John’s Area School in Foley has been working all school year on learning how to be good friends and neighbors to each other.

When the opportunity arose to enter the Art on the Margins contest, their teacher, Toni Hammond, thought this year’s theme, “Love Your Neighbor,” fit right in with what the class was learning.

Liz Hamak hands each student a copy of the book, “Everyone Belongs,” published by the USCCB. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

The students did such a good job on their entry that they — as a whole class — won first place in the contest. They each wrote a story about a time they helped someone and illustrated it with an original drawing. The stories were compiled into a book titled, “Stories of Kindness: Helping a Neighbor in Need.”

The contest was sponsored by the Catholic Charities Office of Social Concerns and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the national anti-poverty and social justice program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There were more than 30 entries from students at Catholic schools around the diocese.

“When Liz Hamak, [the social concerns office intern] came to our school and presented the information about the Art on the Margins contest, it resonated with me that it was something meaningful to be explored with the students in my classroom,” Hammond said.

The class talked about what it means to be a good neighbor and brainstormed ideas to submit for the contest, Hammond said.

Back row (left to right): Elijah A., Bowen R., Jacob B., Vera W., Evan W., Leighton H., Lydia B Front row (kneeling left to right): Deglan H., Harlyn M., Rosalie B., Paxton B. (Photo submitted)

“There were so many great ideas that we decided it might be best for each student to write and illustrate his or her own story and combine them into a book,” she said.

“I chose the first-graders’ entry as first [place] because I felt that their project conveyed not only artistic care and creativity, but genuine authenticity and meaning behind their work,” Hamak said.

During an award presentation at the school May 17, each first-grader received a copy of the book, “Everyone Belongs,” published by the USCCB. The celebration also included doughnuts for the whole school.

“I’m excited,” said Paxton Beutz, who contributed a story about how he helped a friend when he scuffed his knee. “I can’t believe we won.”

Bowen Rasmussen, whose story was about a time when he helped his sister who had fallen off her bike, said he also was excited about the first-place award.

“I think writing the stories helped the students realize how their acts of kindness and showing love for others makes a difference,” Hammond said. “As a school, we are working to instill in the students a sense of caring for others for the joy it brings to others and themselves. We are trying to help the students realize that the small things they do can make a big difference.”

In addition to the first-place award, three honorable mentions were awarded in the contest. Junia Taylor and Olivia Thielen-Loch from Christ the King School in Browerville were recognized for their pieces, “My Friend” and “Around the World.” Zoey Varner from Holy Trinity School in Pierz was honored for her piece, “Being a Neighbors Love.”

“Kids are a lot smarter and wiser than we sometimes give them credit for,” Hamak said. “They can teach us a lot about loving our neighbors and seeing the dignity in each person.”

A few examples of the award-winning stories.











Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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