Heritage Grove Middle School eighth grader Stella Abarca is the 2020 Illinois Manningham Trust Poetry Competition Junior Division Champion.
She will now take part in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies competition in June.
The Manningham Trust Competition is a national poetry contest for public, private, and home-schooled students in 6th-12th grades.
The students’ poems are first judged at the state level by Illinois State Poetry Society members.
Abarca’s poem, “What World We Live In” was selected from nearly 70 entries from 6th-8th graders statewide.
“It is amazing and humbling to know my poem was picked. Poetry can help you express yourself,” Abarca said.
The teen, who is also a Girl Scout, said she was inspired to write the winning poem after she organized a clothing drive for refugee children as part of a project.
“I learned about the problems they face and that inspired me to write how helping one person can change a person’s life and slowly the world,” she said.
“Stella’s poem would have given some high school poems a run for their money,” said Illinois State Poetry Society Youth Chair Mary Beth Bretzlauf.
Abarca began writing poetry in third grade and has published two poems, including her winning poem.
To hear the interview and the poem read by Stella click here.
What World We Live In
This world is evil composed of fighting and sin
Where we are judged like a book, by the color of our skin.
How can we judge someone we can‘t understand?
Why do we criticize the things we can‘t comprehend?
We are too quick to judge, to shout out, to call names
We slap titles on people because of what society claims.
Little boys are told that if they cry or shed a tear
They are not strong or brave, just weak and full of fear.
And somewhere out there a girl dreams of going up to space
But she‘s told to give up because the moon‘s a man‘s place.
This world is full of violence and war
What‘s wrong with the world, what‘s the fault in its core?
This is my world; this is the world that I‘ve made it to be
So, if this world is mine, the problem is me.
But we have a chance to find the goodness each day
With each action we do with each word that we say.
Find the goodness in the person who skips down the street
And smiles and waves at everybody they meet.
Seek the beauty in uniting all people as one
Dream of the day the tensions of the world are undone.
Comfort those who cry because of how they appear
Teach them beauty is through the heart and not the mirror.
Help the people who are told they are just a mistake
Show them kindness not anger, teach them love and not hate.
Motivate the people who are put down because of their looks
See past their face and you‘ll find someone others mistook.
Walk the world in a different pair of shoes
Feel their pain and burdens mend the heart that is bruised.
Inspire and love, build the world a new heart
Break the walls that divide and keep us apart.
Change the world in any way that you can
Lead and inspire, teach others to stand.
So how will you be remembered and how will you live? It‘s not about the gifts you receive, but those you give.