Five third grade students from Buckley Elementary School in Lansing were honored for their work of poetry submitted to the 32nd Annual Human Rights Arts Competition at the Tompkins County Public Library on Jan. 25.
The competition is hosted each year by the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights. Students from kindergarten to high school around the county learn about the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and submit various forms of art that incorporate at least one article from the UDHR. Categories included visual art, poetry, short film and recorded performance (dance or spoken word).
In the poetry category for third through fifth grade students, Ethan Joseph Levy, Zoey Feller, Oscar Law, Melody Steinberg and Rachel Hopkins all were recognized for their writing that Saturday.
Levy won the Dorothy Cotton Poetry Prize for his acrostic poem titled “Equal Rights.” The award is a collaboration with the Office of Human Rights and the Dorothy Cotton Institute that honors an outstanding piece of poetry written by a student. Dorothy Cotton was a civil rights activist and was the Education Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an African American civil rights organization. Levy chose to incorporate all 30 articles in his poem.
“I just thought it was a good thing to do and help people out with human rights,” Levy said.
Zoey Feller won first place among third, fourth and fifth graders with her poem “Freedom of Thought.” Feller said she wrote about how people “have the right to believe what they want to believe in.”
Oscar Law won second place with his poem “Right to Education.” Law said he wrote about how “it’s not fair if you don’t get the same amount of education as other people.”
“I love school. It’s fun,” Law said. “If some people…didn’t get to do that, I feel like I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Melody Steinberg won third place with her poem “We Are All Born Free and Equal.” Steinberg said she wrote about people should be allowed to have different ideas and should be treated the same way.
“I chose this because it matters,” Steinberg said. “I think we should have all the same ideas and do whatever we want, and it doesn’t matter how you look because I see people that aren’t treated fairly sometimes.”
Rachel Hopkins earned an honorable mention for her poem “The Right to Education.”
“I picked the right to education because it’s a special topic and everyone should be able to go to school,” Hopkins said.
Third grade teacher Jill Cusack teaches Feller, Law and Steinberg. Cusack said she was very impressed with the energy all of the students put into their work.
“We spent a lot of time in the fall reading the 30 articles of human rights, and really reading them together and reading them independently and with partners, and really talking about what each right means and why it’s important,” Cusack said. “There was so much passion for this topic and this competition allowed them an opportunity to express themselves with something that they really cared about.”