Story and Photos by Alice Gerard
The winners of three years’ worth of Lions Club peace poster contests were announced at the Lions Club meeting, held May 25 at the Buffalo Launch Club. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the recognition of peace poster contest winners to be delayed, explained Paul Bassette, chair of the poster committee.
The poster contest is open to students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, he said.
The theme for the 2021-22 school year was “We Are All Connected,” and the first-place winner was Eleanor Murray, a sixth-grade student at Veronica Connor Middle School.
Bassette said that there are three criteria for judging the posters: expression of that year’s theme, artistic merit and originality.
He explained, “Their artistic interpretation helps these young people to think about and express ideas to help them advance their international understanding, along with tolerance for other people around the world. You’ll be amazed at what the kids can do.”
The first-place winner receives $100, the second-place winner receives $50, and honorable mention awardees receive $25. The winner goes on to the district competition, with the winner of that going on to a statewide competition. Winners of statewide competitions are entered into the international competition, which Bassette said includes approximately 100 countries.
Drew Dulak, the middle school art teacher, has, over the years, had his classes do the peace poster contest, “where we had many entrants – up to 100,” Bassette said. “Unfortunately, COVID intercepted the situation. By last year, we only had a few entrants into the peace poster contest.”
Eleanor explained the thought process that led her to design her poster: “I thought about the dove and how that symbolizes peace, and I thought that there are a whole bunch of people all over the world and how you can create peace. The white flag showed there is surrender but, in surrender, there is also unity. We can all come together.”
“I believe that peace is equality amongst all,” Eleanor said. “When we treat people differently, we create a rift between different groups of people. When we treat people equally, no matter where they come from or what they look like, we help to create peace. People holding hands shows the diversity of us all. When you treat people equally, you stay together.”
She noted the green ribbon shown in her poster is for mental health awareness. She encourages everyone to unplug from the internet and to spend time with other people outside.
Eleanor’s parents, Kateri Solberg and Kevin Murray, said their daughter showed her artistic talent at a very young age.
“When she was in kindergarten, she could put together profiles and portfolios and pictures of people,” Solberg said. “The way she put together her artistic talents made it look like she was already in high school. She will hopefully pursue it in whatever way she wants to, and we’re just blessed that she wants to have peace, as well.”
Murray, who teaches U.S. history and Advanced Placement government at Grand Island High School, said, “I’m just extremely proud of her. We always encourage her interests, and I have art supplies all over the house.”
Paul Bassette with Eleanor Murray, a sixth grader at Veronica Connor Middle School, and her winning poster for the 2021-22 school year. The year’s theme was “We Are All Connected.”
Eleanor Murray, poster contest winner for the 2021-22 school year, with her mother, Kateri Solberg.
First and second place winners for previous years are:
√ Noah Magee, now an eighth grader in the middle school, was first-place winner for 2019-20. The theme for that year was “Journey of Peace.” Second place went to Andrew Kozlowski, also an eighth grader at the middle school. Magee, who was unable to be present at the Lions Club meeting, said in a written statement, “Peace saves lives and that is very important.” Kozlowski was also unable to attend.
√ McKenna Lavin, now a seventh grader at the middle school, was the first-place winner for 2020-21. The theme for that year was “Peace through Service.” Second place went to Noah Magee. Lavin, who was also unable to be present at the Lions Club meeting, said in a written statement, “When we are united with each other and at peace, impossible isn’t part of our vocabulary.” Lavin also won at the district level, but not at the state level.
√ There was no second-place winner for the 2021-22 school year.
The posters for all first and second for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years will be on display at the Grand Island Memorial Library for one year.