Stilly students win trip to Olympia

ARLINGTON Victoria Blymyer and Matthew Boe's writing was so good that it earned them a trip to the state capitol.

Blymyer and Boe are two Stillaguamish Valley School students who were among the 181 semi-finalists in the "Letters about Literature" contest, which received entries from more than 2,500 students throughout Washington state.

Blymyer, a fifth-grader, and Boe, a ninth-grader, were each winners in their respective grade-level categories for the contest, and were honored April 4 in the Capitol Rotunda in the Legislative Building in Olympia.

"Letters about Literature" is a reading and writing competition that challenges students to write to an author, living or dead, and describe how his or her book affected them. Blymyer wrote to Hans Christian Andersen about his story "The Ugly Duckling," while Boe wrote to William Henry Davies about his poem "Leisure."

"Were you once judged only by your looks, and if so, is that what made you write this story?" Blymyer wrote to Andersen. "It seems to me the book mirrors real life, where some people can have the tendency to judge other people only by their looks. After reading your story and considering it, I decided to now try and look deeper than what shows on the surface of a person."

Blymyer's letter went on to express her wish that other people could read Andersen's story and have it affect their perspectives, as it's done for her. She admitted that she has judged people based on "what you look like, or how much they have" in the past, but noted that she will strive not to do so in the future. She previously won second place for her grade-level category in the Everett Elks' "What is an American?" essay contest.

Boe's letter turned a critical eye on not only the American media and consumer culture, but also on his own priorities.

"After seeing this, I was able to examine my own life, and noticed I put too much emphasis on money," Boe wrote to Davies, his letter stating that, in both popular entertainment and advertising, "'Stuff will make you happy' seems to be the main theme. And the only way to buy all this stuff is to work many, many hours."

Boe's letter took issue with the "pathway to success," stating that schools and adults should model more of a balance between work and play for their children.

"What kind of success is a perfect job and lots of money if you don't have time to enjoy it?" Boe wrote to Davies. "Adults are doing this, and children are following."

"It was very refreshing to read an essay like that from someone Matt's age, especially since Americans tend to lead such fast-track lives," said SVS writing instructor Liz Bertran.

In his letter, Boe pledged to lead "a more balanced life," which will include time for outdoor activities and meditation. To that end, he declined to make the trip with Blymyer to Olympia April 4.

While Blymyer found the experience enjoyable, her mother Kathe added that it was a bit overwhelming for her daughter as well.

"I was proud that she could stand up, have her name read off in the Capitol Rotunda, and be recognized," Kathe Blymyer said.

"I was astounded to be in there," Victoria Blymyer said. "It's a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside."

The "Letters about Literature" competition is jointly sponsored by Target stores, the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the Washington State Library and a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

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