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Tenzing Atsentsang of Beaverton, Salam Hassan of Lake Oswego and Tessa Keuler of Oregon City win the three top prizes
PORTLAND-- Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) today announced the three winners of its Greenfield Peace Writing Contest for Oregon High School Students. The contest posed the question "in a world where we struggle with wars, injustice, violence in our communities and the threat of environmental devastation… what does peace mean to you?" There were 186 students from all parts of the state who entered the contest, submitting essays, poems and fiction. This was an increase from the 48 students who entered the contest last year.
The top three winners will receive a cash prize ($1000, $750, $500), a certificate signed by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, and a one year membership in Oregon PSR. Twelve honorable mention winners will receive certificates. The three winners will be honored at an awards ceremony and dinner on Saturday, April 10th, 6:00pm at the Oregon Zoo. Also featured at the event will be keynote speaker Dahr Jamail, an independent reporter and author who will discuss the health effects of war on Iraqi civilians and US soldiers. Tickets to the dinner must be purchased in advance.
The winning entry was from Tenzing Atsentsang of Beaverton who attends Westview High School in Portland. In his essay about his experience as a Tibetan refugee he writes, “As a young refugee, I have struggled to grasp of what peace means to me…My journey has taken me from exile in India to home in Portland, Oregon. I have witnessed how much most people cherish their religious and cultural values. I want to be a stepping-stone in which I give hope to my family and to my people that we someday will have freedom in our homeland, too. I carry not just my personal aspirations for a free Tibet, but dreams and hopes of all people for a world where we live in peace and understanding.”
Second place was awarded to Salam Hassan of Lake Oswego who attends Skyview High School in Vancouver, WA. Discussing his visit to the Palestine, he writes, “Growing up in Oregon, I never had a reason to question what peace was. I took things like going to school, playing basketball with friends, or taking family trips for granted. I did not take the time to consider how people in many parts of the world struggle just to survive. In Ramallah, Palestine, where I spent a year in the seventh grade, some nights I stayed awake to the echoing sounds of gunfire in the distance, too close for comfort… It really hit me then: how could people live like this every day and think about having a future?”
Third place was awarded to Tessa Keuler of Oregon City High School. Reflecting on her experience feeding the homeless in Portland, she writes “Peace isn’t simply the hopeful outcome of battles and the grudgingly decided on solution for hate – real peace is holy and true, pure and facile. It is helping one another through dark times and forming a bond between two diverse worlds – the helpless and those with the ability to help.”
The entries were judged by a distinguished panel of community members and writers including: Salma Ahmad, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Portland; Ronault “Polo” Catalani, poet and civil rights attorney/coordinator in Portland’s office of human rights; Michael Crenshaw, poet, hip-hop artist and educator; Ursula Le Guin, noted author of many genres; and Elizabeth Schwarz, president of the Oregon Area Jewish Committee.
This is the third year Oregon PSR has sponsored a peace writing contest. The first was in 1988, organized by then Executive Director, Del Greenfield. In 2009, PSR revived the contest and named it in honor of Del Greenfield.
"The intention of the contest is to encourage the next generation of Oregon's leaders to consider their role in promoting peace," explains Kelly Campbell, Executive Director of Oregon PSR. "We are thrilled that so many students from all across the state have shared their thoughts with us and hope this contest will foster discussion of peace and justice issues in our high schools."
The 12 Honorable Mention entries include: Isaiah Belli of Central Christian HS in Redmond, Cieara Boyd of Network Charter School in Eugene, Maza Brady of Dalles HS, Robert Brown of Oregon City HS, Kristen Bushelle of Echo HS, Brooke Carlisle of Hillsboro HS, Garrett Close of Centennial HS in Damascus, Adam Corona of West Linn HS, Janelle Hielmstad of Sisters HS, Julia Rahm of Sisters HS, Alyssa Thiel of Sandy HS, and Hana Yoshihata of Alliance Charter School in Oregon City.
To read the Honorable Mention winning entries, please click here.