BROOKSVILLE — The title of Angelica Bertone's poem conveys a simple yet serious question: Do You Remember Me?
The theme is the abuse her mother suffered at the hands of Angelica's father many years ago, when Angelica was 4. The poem captures the words that Angelica would say to her father if she were to see him again.
Katy McHugh took an assignment from her creative writing class and penned a poem called My View. Her powerful words tend to hit home. "I made my dad cry with the first (poem) I wrote," she said last week.
Bertone and McHugh, both seniors at Nature Coast Technical High School, were among the winners of the Dawn Center's annual Art and Poetry Contest.
Hernando County students were invited to draw pictures or write poems according to the theme: "Many views, one vision; making Hernando County free of domestic and sexual violence." There were more than 200 entries and eight winners.
The contest, in its second year, added poetry this year. The artwork was on display throughout the Purple Leopard, a home-decorating business on Broad Street owned by T.L. Diaz and Laura Wever.
Diaz and Wever, supporters of the Dawn Center of Hernando County, which serves domestic abuse victims, partnered with that organization to host a reception for the winning artwork. They worked with Dawn Center prevention and social change advocate Morgan C. Moeller.
At the reception at the Purple Leopard, prints of the artwork were framed, displayed and available for purchase. Proceeds benefited the Dawn Center.
Bertone's experience with domestic violence made this contest especially meaningful for her. "It is a very terrible thing that happens to women," she said.
Her mother, Diane Frederick, was surprised by the poem. "I didn't even know she'd written (it)," Frederick said. "It's a touchy subject. It's important to let them express themselves about it."
Bertone wrote it last year and had it published in Creative Poetry Communication. Her teacher at that time, Patricia Genovese, submitted it to the Dawn Center contest as well.
"Because of the nature of the contest, it was a way of healing and helping others," Genovese said. "She said it all, and I said 'It's got to be shared.' "
Debbie Andrews, the Dawn Center's executive director, was delighted with the turnout at the reception and with the number of entries. "With all of the kids that responded to the contest, we're bringing awareness," she said.
The center also is trying to curb domestic violence through classroom programs, which vary for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Many topics are covered, including helping children label their feelings and apply self-control strategies, creative conflict resolution and appreciation of differences.
Here are the contest winners:
Arts category: First place, Challenger K8 School of Science and Mathematics eighth-grader Katey Johnson, 13; second place, Challenger K8 eighth-grader Mariela Cabrera, 14; third place, Challenger K8 eighth-grader Alexis Cabrera, 13; and honorable mention, Challenger K8 sixth-grader Iana Escober-Nario, 11.
Poetry category: First place, Nature Coast Technical High School junior Christin Bondanza, 16; second place, Angelica Bertone, Nature Coast senior, 17; third place, Nature Coast senior Katy McHugh, 18; and honorable mention, Nature Coast junior Logan Feinberg, 16.
Businesses and organizations that contributed to the reception or awards were: MOSI, Wet N' Wild, Fun Zone, Beacon Theaters, Chick-fil-A, the Paper Porch, Weeki Wachee Springs, Spring Hill Lanes (which donated 250 passes — one for each participating student), Village Pizza, Publix, Business Professional Women, Atria Evergreen Woods, Main Street Eatery and Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Brooksville.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.