EPB celebrates Hamilton Co. students who won Black History Month poetry contest

Students in the back row from the left are Bayleigh Evans, Ella Nottis, Gracie Williams and Brynn Beckstrand; on the front row from the left are Fatima Ibarra, Naeil'ah Powers, Ma'lisha Cook, Claire Pouncey and Kelvin Boyd, aka EPB’s “Professor Gig-A-Watt”. (Image: EPB)

[Editor's note: This story was written by and originally appeared on the website of EPB.]

EPB, along with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, honored eight Hamilton County students who won top recognition in the company’s 14th Annual Black History Month Poetry Contest by submitting original poetry celebrating the historic contributions made by African Americans who lived and worked in the Chattanooga area.

Students in the 1st through 12th grades submitted hundreds of entries. For 2018, EPB produced five videos featuring interviews with UTC professor Dr. Clark White about the achievements of Chattanooga African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Students were invited to choose a video and write a poem, or for the younger children draw a picture, about what inspired them about the people and events covered in the video they chose.

“Our judges had the difficult task of selecting eight award-winning entries from hundreds of submissions,” said EPB President and CEO David Wade. “These and many outstanding entries demonstrate the passion and insight many students gain from studying local history.”

EPB honored the eight recipients during an awards event on Thursday evening. In addition to the recognition, both the students and their teachers received an award of $100. Here are the winning entries:

1-3 Grades

Naeil'ah Powers, Orchard Knob Elementary/Teacher-Rosalyn Tiller

Bayleigh Evans, East Brainerd Elementary/Teacher-Mrs. Pirtle

4-5 Grades

Ella Nottis, Allen Elementary/Teacher-Ms. Sharp

Brynn Beckstrand, Snow Hill Elementary/Teacher-Ms. Meredith Ziegenmier

6-8 Grades

Ma'lisha Cook, Washington Alternative Learning Center/Teacher- Ms. Goines

Gracie Williams, Home School/Teacher-Ms. Rhonda Williams

9-12 Grades

Fatima Ibarra, Hixson High School/Teacher-Ms. Smith

Claire Pouncey, CSAS/Teacher-Mr. Zach Dragoo

Tenesha Irvin, community leader, sales professional and radio personality, delivered the keynote address, “Continuing the Legacy”.

The EPB Black History Month contest began as an essay competition, but changed four years ago because of the power of poetry to express human emotion through a careful selection of words. Kelvin Boyd, EPB’s “Professor Gig-A-Watt” schools ambassador, coordinates the annual Black History Month Poetry Contest with Hamilton County public, private and home schools, along with parents and judges.

“Each year I am amazed by our student’s ability to celebrate the contributions of African Americans in heartwarming ways that reflect our shared history,” Boyd said.

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