BERLIN – School system officials held a special ceremony last week to congratulate a Berlin Intermediate School sixth-grader whose poetry was recognized in a national contest.
Gavin Conner, a sixth-grader at Berlin Intermediate, was honored by his school and members of the Worcester County Garden Club for winning first place in a poetry contest sponsored by National Garden Clubs Inc.
“This is a very exciting award,” Berlin Intermediate School Principal Tom Sites said. “You have a bright future ahead of you.”
The Oct. 31 ceremony for Conner, 11, stemmed from a contest hosted by the Worcester County Garden Club that he entered last year. The contest, one of several the Worcester County Garden Club hosts, tasked students with writing poetry with a conservation theme.
Conner’s poem, titled “Sacred Ground,” won first place at the state level. It also won first place in the Central Atlantic Region, a seven-state district. From there it went on to the national competition, where it was named the first-place fifth-grade poem.
“We were extremely impressed and I’m glad to see so was the rest of the country,” said Marion Novack, president of the Worcester County Garden Club.
Jenny Henry, youth chair for Maryland State Garden Clubs, presented Conner with a copy of the booklet featuring his poem and those from the rest of the grade-level winners from throughout the country.
“This award is outstanding,” Henry said. “Thank you for entering.”
Mary Lou Scott, youth contest chairperson for the Worcester County Garden Club, said Conner was the club’s first national winner.
Conner said he was surprised to learn this month that he won the nationwide contest, which he had decided to enter after encouragement from one of his teachers. He said the poem was based on his aunt’s tales of Yellowstone National Park, which she had visited.
In the poem, Conner described the park’s “mighty trees” and array of animals. He writes about how an ecosystem unmolested by humans will thrive.
“It was about trees and how you should save the wildlife,” Conner said.
Conner said the hardest part of the writing process was thinking of which words to use to express his ideas.
And just why does he believe protecting nature is so important?
“It makes our earth fresh and it gives us oxygen,” he said.
In addition to the poetry contest, the Worcester County Garden Club sponsors a poster contest and an essay contest each year.