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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Poetry contest winners earn accolades

Poetry contest winners earn accolades

Robert Frost once said, “I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”

A total of 180 local children and teenagers recently took the voyages of discovery of which Frost wrote.

The youths did so while composing poems they entered in this year’s annual La Grande K-12 Poetry Contest.

This year’s 180 entrants was the highest total in the contest’s history, said Kathy O’Neal of La Grande, the contest’s director the past nine years. 

The total pleased O’Neal, who said that writing poetry does much for children and teenagers. 

“It gives them an outlet for expressing themselves,” O’Neal said. “When they write poetry they have a voice. So many times they can’t articulate what they are feeling, especially when it is something big, but when they start writing poetry it pours out of them.”

O’Neal said that if “we as teachers and parents” encouraged students to continue writing poetry, many adults would have a better understanding of what is going on within the minds of youth. 

“We would know about their internal conflicts, how much they are suffering and what we can do to encourage them,” O’Neal said. 

She also said people would learn how creative they are and see how they visualize things in their minds. 

The annual contest, which has been conducted at least 10 years, is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade in La Grande and Island City.

The division winners of this year’s contest are Amein Jones of Grande Ronde Academy, who placed first in the kindergarten through third-grade division; Kaiden Taylor of Greenwood Elementary School, the winner of the fourth-grade division; Rhett VanLaarhoven of Grande Ronde Academy, the fifth-sixth-grade division champion; Erin Campbell of Grande Ronde Academy, the grade seven-eight division winner; and Marie Dalton of La Grande High School, the grade nine through 12 division winner. 

Greenwood fourth-grader Kaiden Taylor not only won his division but also received the Purple Feather Award. This award is given to the writer of the poem judged to be the most exceptional in his or her grade-level category.

O’Neal said the contest is made possible by the support of the La Grande School District and Grande Ronde Academy, the individual teachers who encourage students to write poems and the secretaries of each school who give of their time each year to collect poems for the contest. 

The sponsors of this year’s contest included Dairy Queen, Dominos Pizza, Mamacitas, New York Richie’s, Pizza Hut, Primo’s, Starbucks, the Sub Shop, Taco Time, Granada Theater and Veterans Memorial Pool. Their sponsorship made it possible for prizes to be awarded to placers, O’Neal said. Some sponsors provided up to 15 prizes.

Following are the top three placers in the competition’s five divisions and the poems that placed first in each category. 

K-3rd Grade: Amein Jones, Grande Ronde Academy, first place; Sophie Bell, Central Elementary School, second place; Kolton Wood, Central Elementary School, third place.

Fourth Grade: Kaiden Taylor, Greenwood Elementary School, first place and Purple Feather Award; Jayce Seavert, Island City Elementary School, second place; Samantha Savage, Greenwood Elementary School, third place.

Fifth-Sixth Grade: Rhett VanLaarhoven, Grande Ronde Academy, first place; Miller Thurman, La Grande Middle School, second place; Cade Reed, Grande Ronde Academy, third place.

Seventh-Eighth Grade: Erin Campbell, Grande Ronde Academy, first place; Zayne Kirkham, Grande Ronde Academy, second place; Darin Rueppel, La Grande Middle School, third place.

Ninth-12th Grade: Marie Dalton, La Grande High School, first place; Laura Patterson, La Grande High School, second place; Donovan Durfee, La Grande High School, third place.


My Grandpa, My Friend by Marie Dalton, 12th Grade

The sky is clear,

The ocean is blue

I’m standing on the beach

Waiting for you

My feet in the sands

Water touching my toes

When I’ll get to see you

God only knows

You left when I was young

Too young to understand

That you were so sick

You could barely hold my hand

So I have to go on

And live my life

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you

Sometimes I still cry

I know you’re always with me

And I’ll try to make you proud

But I’m always going to miss you

this I avowed

So I live and I wait

To see you again

To play cards and to laugh

My grandpa, my friend


Books by Erin Campbell, Seventh Grade


Pirates with hooks

Fairies that shine

yes books of mine

Dragons that fly

The bad guys die

Spines on the shelf

A small short elf

Time flies by

High in the sky

Demons quite tall

Insects so small

Tattered old scrolls

Vaulting from poles

A snake’s evil hiss

A magical kiss

Paper with words

Flying with birds

My wings spread wide

I’m here for the ride

In books


The Soccer Ball by Rhett VanLaarhoven, Sixth Grade

Kicked into the air

Although I have no hair

I will be soaring to the goal, but then... a sudden stop!


I will then be thrown down,

Rolling to angry feet,

Get kicked to another goal,

“He shoots, he scores!”


I am now carried to the center of the field,

All of a sudden, I’m blasted to the air.

And “Yes!” the crowd screams,

And again I helped,

I am the soccer ball.


Alone by Kaiden Taylor, Fourth Grade

Alone is a computer with no mouse

Alone is a multimillionaire with no money

Alone is a car with no gasoline

Alone is a school with no laughter

Alone is a cloud with no rain

Alone is a pen with no ink

Alone is a fish with no gills

Alone is a cat with no reflexes

Alone is a Kung with no Fu

Alone is a lake with no water

Alone is a train with no track

Alone is a teacher with no students

Alone is a printer with no paper

Alone is a home with no love

Alone is Me with no


The Wild Little Horse by Amein Jones, Third Grade

The wild little horse so brave and bold,

Lived on a farm with a little sheep fold.


He wandered around to and fro,

And came to a river with a beautiful flow.


Hello little river, little horse said with glee,

I look into the river and see a pony just like me!


He ran home to his mom and dad,

And told them of the fun he had.

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