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NECC Celebrates Peace with Poetry Contest

Submitted by on May 6, 2019 – 8:12 pm

NECC English Professor and Peace Poetry coordinator Elle Yarborough (left) with adult winner Nancy Earley of Andover, who also designed the cover of this year’s chapbook.

“Peace, Peace, where are you? I’m looking everywhere for you!” Those are the opening lines of a peace poem written by Yasser Azzou’s, a kindergartener at The Islamic Academy for Peace in Methuen. It was one of 11 first place winning poems in Northern Essex Community College’s 11th Annual Peace Poetry Contest & Reading.

The now annual event was held Friday, May 3, 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.

The 2019 first place winners include:

Kindergarten, Yasser Azzou, “Peace in Your Heart,” The Islamic Academy for Peace, Methuen.

First Grade, Selena Almedia, “Crashing Waves,” Tilton School, Haverhill.

Second Grade, Sena Kaplan, “Peace is Beautiful,” The Islamic Academy for Peace, Methuen.

Third Grade, Bella Lomaka, “Peace,” Sargent School, North Andover.

Fourth Grade, Adel Sounalah, “Peace Knows No Differences,” The Islamic Academy for Peace, Methuen.

Fifth grade, Niranjan Nair, “Once Upon a Time…,” Sanborn School, Andover.

Sixth Grade, Aisha Farheen Riaz, “The Flame of Peace,” The Islamic Academy for Peace, Methuen.

Seventh Grade, Andrew Kanakor, “Better World,” Saint Michael School, Lowell.

Eighth Grade, Timothy Tran, “The End of War,” Lowell Catholic, Lowell.

High School, Rayna Rodriguez, “O’ Brave New World,” Methuen High School, Methuen.

Adult Category, Nancy Earley, “Shattered Peace,” NECC Student of Andover.

NECC President Lane Glenn (left) with Enzo Surin, a poet, publisher, social advocate, and associate professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College who was the keynote speaker.

Since its inception 11 years ago, more than 11,000 peace poems have been submitted, according to event organizer English Professor Elle Yarborough.

Poet and Associate Professor of English, Enzo Surin, from Bunker Hill Community College delivered the keynote address. Surin is a Haitian-born poet, educator, publisher, and social advocate.

“It’s great to see this many faces gathered tonight to celebrate what was considered a dying art. Somebody is always saying something about how no one reads poetry anymore yet the latest numbers tell us that poetry is being read and written at an astronomical rate, especially poetry that is socially and politically conscious,” Surin told the friends and families of the poetry winners. “The best news about the surging number of those who are gravitating to poetry is that they are our youth. That’s right, a younger generation is actively engaged in both reading and writing poetry. And that is something we should all be very excited about.”

Surin, who received the 2017 Brother Thomas Fellowship from The Boston Foundation, told the audience that poetry is important for several reasons.

(Left to right) Sena Kaplan, Adel Sounalah, and Yassar Azzou, of The Islamic Academy for Peace in Methuen were first place winners.

“Poetry provides us with the platform to not only express ourselves but also a pathway to create and nurture community. That is one of the reasons why I love to write. Poetry provided me with opportunities, such as tonight’s event, to connect with people that I would not have otherwise,” he said. “And because writing poetry is a win-win endeavor, I am also able to connect with myself; to find peace within myself despite a world that often tries its best to destroy our peace. Poetry helps me find ways to keep my peace so that I could be of service to others. It also gives me the confidence to say what needs to be said because writing is not a passive form of social action.”

Dr. Paul Saint-Amand, a retired NECC English Professor, created the Peace Poetry Contest & Reading, quite simply to promote peace. The Rockport resident and Vietnam-era veteran was honored for his contribution to the promotion of peace. NECC President Lane Glenn presented him with the award and thanked him for his work.

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. A committee of NECC students and faculty judge the submissions. In addition to the first place winners, an additional 70 or 80 poems are published in a chapbook.

Here are the winning poems.

Additional information can be found at the Peace Poetry website.

For additional information, contact Yarborough at