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NECC Celebrates Peace with Poetry Contest

Submitted by on May 11, 2018 – 1:51 pm

Dr. Paul Saint-Amand (rear center) is surrounded by the Peace Poetry winners. (front l to r) Julia Hutchinson, Malika Meskine, Nate Reily, Esra Cetin. (rear l to r) Jonathan Lovett, Saint-Amand, and Michelle Howard.

“Circle is the shape of love, and if you split it in thirds, it’s the symbol of peace and, when peace and love come together it becomes indestructible,” read Nathan Lagueux, a third-grader from the River Valley Charter School in Newburyport, during Northern Essex Community College’s 10th Peace Poetry Contest & Reading.

The annual event was held Friday, May 4, in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill campus, 100 Elliott St.

Dozens of students from area public and private schools, kindergarten through high school read their original peace poems in front of hundreds of family members and friends.

Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 poems on the subject of peace have been submitted. This year alone, more 800 poems were written by students representing 27 schools from Haverhill to Hudson, NH.

Dr. Paul Saint-Amand, an NECC English professor and founder of the contest gave the keynote before introducing the six finalists.

“If I may, I would like to primarily address my words this evening to our children poets… As a military veteran and educator, I know, peace is a difficult and often evasive virtue because we often don’t recognize it or know how to make it blossom…  sometimes it takes a child to get us to see that vision of hope and peace,” he told the audience. “To write about peace is always an act of generosity, giving both to yourself and to others… When you write about peace from the heart, you are also taking care of today, nourishing yourself.”

Nate Reily, Grade 6, of Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, wrote the winning Peace Poem for grades 6-8. He was the winner of the 3-5 grades division last year. The poems are selected blindly from hundreds submitted each year.

“Find out what puts you at peace and what keeps you from it,” he offered. “Change yourself and you change the world.”

Five students and one teacher received recognition for their poetry. The authors and their winning poems are: for grades K-2, “Until Your Heart if Full” Julia Hutchinson, Grade 2,  Salisbury Elementary School; Grades 3 -5 “Welcome in Peace” Malika Meskine, Grade 3, The Islamic Academy for Peace; Grades 6 – 8, “The Peaceful Side of Nature,” Nate Reily, Grade 6; “Why Do Missiles Scream?” Grades 9 – 10, Jonathan Lovett, Grade 10; “The Human Tragedy,” Grades 11-12, Esra Cetin, Methuen High School, Grade 11; “Somewhere Within,” teacher Michelle Howard, Salisbury Elementary School, Grade 2.

Ten years ago, Saint-Amand, a Rockport resident and Vietnam-era veteran created the Peace Poetry Contest and Reading, quite simply to promote peace. His intent was for students, teachers, and community members to “embrace this social justice activity”.

Saint-Amand, is also founder and project director of the National Peace Poetry Project and the director of the Vietnam Veterans Chapbook Project. He has taught at NECC since 2007. He previously taught at a number of institutions including SUNY- Potsdam, NY. He is also the founder of the NECC Veterans Writing Group.

The contest is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, the Division of Liberal Arts, the English Department, and the Service Learning Committee.

Additional information can be found at the Peace Poetry website.

Or contact Saint-Amand, at (978) 556-3307 or