A new year with new traditions and habits to take in is upon us! During the 2023 parts of the Belle Fourche School District’s school year, BFSD schools have been really focusing on building leadership and collaboration opportunities within their schools and students, and this school year, they have started what they hope to be the start of a truly meaningful and collaborative leadership opportunity between their elementary and middle school students!
While the beginning of each month is always dedicated to recognizing their students’ leadership skills both inside and outside of the classroom at each of their schools in the Belle Fourche School District, the rest of the month is dedicated to really practicing and building those leadership skills in ways that uniquely empower their students to inspire collaboration, connection, creativity, and authenticity.
In Belle Fourche Middle School’s eighth grade, one such leadership, book-related opportunity has been brewing since September in a brand-new creative collaboration effort with Belle Fourche School District’s second grade South Park Elementary students.
Created by eighth grade Belle Fourche Middle School teachers Penny Louks and Jane received a copy of the poetry book Green Elephant, the 15th annual Scurfpea Publishing poetry anthology, and cash prizes of $75 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place were given in each category of the contest.
This celebration was made extra special as South Dakota State Poetry Society’s Contest Chairman, Jean Helmer, and current South Dakota Poet Laurette, Bruce Roseland, graciously took the time to visit the city of Belle Fourche to join in at Belle Fourche Alternative School’s Poetry Awards celebration to share their words of praise and inspiration.
Bruce Roseland, who became the most recent South Dakota Poet Laurette as of last summer, is a fourth-generation cattleman who grew up on – and still works – a ranch in north central South Dakota, who has written multiple poetry collections that relate personally to his everyday South Dakota experiences as a rancher, poet, and the other multifaceted experiences of being human with a variety of interests and experiences to share.
Roseland’s words to the students of Belle Fourche School District’s Alternative School were deeply meaningful, as he shared what poetry is, what it means, and why it is so important to explore a variety of our identities at once to combine them together into a fulfilling and inspiring life journey that impacts our lives and of those around us in what we are brave enough to share and connect to with those around us.
Roseland shared his personal story of first becoming inspired and empowered to really write poetry in high school, and how that has helped him become the poet and person he is today, and it was very clear in how passionately he shared his story with the Bronc high school students of Belle Fourche,
He hoped this poetry contest would inspire the same in the students to be their best and favorite inspiring selves.
An inspiring message that Roseland shared with the Bronc high school students of Belle Fourche School District reso- nated reverently in the room as he explained just how it import- ant and special it was, for the students to bravely dive into poetry and share their works with others.
“What is good poetry? What is the value of poetry?” Bruce Roseland shared, “I think the biggest value of poetry is sharing one another’s values. What it is in our lives that we would want somebody else in our lives to communicate.
It takes a lot of courage to get up and read. It takes a lot of courage to expose yourself, and it’s something that takes a lot of practice over time, and you get better at it.” His words were warm and inviting, to thank the students for sharing their voices and emotions, and to encourage them to keep sharing and honing their voices for their sakes, for poetry’s sake, and for the sake of truly and meaningfully connecting to and inspiring the people around us.
As award certificates and copies of books were as given to the participating students and hands were shaken as the audience of parents and staff proudly applauded, the words of the poetry contest’s high school division judge, Ruth Harper, were also passed along to the students and the audience by the Contest Chairman.
Ruth Harper, who is a Professor Emerita of Counseling and Human Development at South Dakota State University has had several of her poems shared in South Dakota’s Poetry magazine, Pasque Petals, and has co-authored four books in her field.
It was said by Contest Chairman, Jean Helmer, that Harper was so impressed with each of the Belle Fourche Alternative High School student participants and their poems, that she personal wrote a note to be shared with each of the writers at the award celebration.
Ryhan Miller was recognized for her creative fresh rhymes in her poem. Poe Haugen was honored for not just one, but two, of her poems that amazed and enchanted the attention of Helmer to keep looking back at Poe’s two poems.
Dixie Knappen was recognized deeply as well as the second-place winner, as Harper shared the awe she had for Dixie’s powerful and raw emotions and truths in her poem – connecting the music and lyrics of Mary Lambert in with her own personal voice to share deeply meaningful and positive messages that can truly inspire anyone who reads her poem – which Harper happily admitted she read again and again.
Contest Chairman, Jean Helmer, finished the day’s award celebration with lasting words to truly inspire and encourage the high school Bronc students, by saying, “There are three kinds of writing: Professional writing, Personal Writing, and Universal Writing, and personal and universal writing are two sides of the same coin.
When you write very personal writing, as these young people have, it pops through and becomes universal.
Dixie’s poem in particular be- comes the voice for hundreds of students. Poe’s poem becomes the voice for anyone who’s ever lost a parent.” Helmer’s attention then turned to the Alternative high school student’s teacher, Melissa Nore, as Helmer said, “Thank you for helping give these kids the nerve and the bravery it takes to release poetry like this – it is truly amazing!”
The Belle Fourche School District thanks the Belle Fourche Alternative School’s dedicated students and staff for taking the time, effort and bravery to participate in this amazing South Dakota opportunity, and thank the South Dakota State Poetry Society for not only providing the opportunity for students to explore and share their creative voices, but for also honoring and celebrating those students by coming to share their praise through celebrating with the students and their families and staff at Belle Fourche School District’s Alternative School Award Celebration!
We give a big shoutout to high school students Rhyan Miller, Poe Haugen, and Dixie Knappen for their bravery and talents in this amazing poetry opportunity, as well as their teacher Melissa Nore for keeping the students inspired and empowered to believe in themselves and their amazing talents.
Lastly, we give a big shoutout to Ruth Harper as the High School Division Judge of the contest for her time, talents and deeply personal and inspiring messages to the participating Broncs students;
For Contest Chairman, Jean Helmer, and South Dakota Poet Laurette, Bruce Roseland, for taking the time to visit Belle Fourche School District and share their personal experiences and inspiring messages with the talented future poets and leaders of those participating high school students of Belle Fourche School District!