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MTHS Freshman Receives National Poetry Prize

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"I am from the car rides down the shore with the windows down, 

        hair flying everywhere and music blasting so loud I could feel my heart beating to it." 

Where I’m From by Ali Giordano, MTHS Freshman


Ali Giordano, a Montville Township High School freshman, is one of only two middle school students in the nation to have been awarded The John Estey Student Writing Competition Award presented by the American Writers Museum. Giordano, wrote the winning poem while still an 8th grade ELA student at Robert R. Lazar Middle School in Montville Township, New Jersey. Giordano is also one of only six students, in the entire United States, from grades 3 through 12, to receive this award.

“Ali wrote her winning poem (and others that are great too!) in our ELA class last year,” Lazar ELA teacher Suezette Given recently wrote. “We are so happy for her!” 

This year, 2022, marks the 3rd annual John Estey Student Writing Competition Awards contest. Giordano’s poem, along with the work of the other five national winners, will be tied to the museum’s upcoming exhibit entitled: Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice, which opens September 22, 2022.

The quote that inspired Where I’m From, Ali Giordano’s nationally recognized poem, was written by James Baldwin. That quote is: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.”


Where I’m From

Ali Giordano

            "The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it." - James Baldwin


The wrinkly- faced French and English bulldogs that run around my comforting home playing, 

            as their strawberry colored tongues hang from their mouths.

From the dinners at my Nana’s house, 

          still smelling the homemade gravy my Pop would make on Sundays.

I’m from the Corrado’s grocery trips with my father, 

sitting in the cart as he places the bags of baby carrots and broccoli next to me knowing I’ll refuse to eat it later.

I am from the green turf fields, full of black specks that somehow end up in my shoes, 

            poking me as I swing my field hockey stick.

From the endless holidays full of cheer and love that take place in the elegant dining room,

            with a shiny golden mirror and delicate china teacups, passed down from generations.

I am from the shimmering stars that sparkle in the night sky, 

           as I lay on the tall grass, gazing at the beautiful sight. 

From the taste of the cinnamon apple jack cereal 

          and Uncrustables in my kindergarten butterfly lunch box.

I am from the itchy princess dresses I'd wear over my long-sleeved tee shirt, 

         that glistened leaving a trail of glitter behind me. 

From those nights where my mom would brush through my curly hair after a shower 

        and complain about the painful knots in my hair. 

I am from the car rides down the shore with the windows down, 

        hair flying everywhere and music blasting so loud I could feel my heart beating to it. 

From the sandy hair, salty waves and tie-dye boogie boards, 

        pretending to be a professional surfer. 

I am from that one room in my school, where laughs fill the air all period, 

       and everyone feels like a family for only those forty-two minutes. 

I am from my childhood memories, 

my not so happy endings, 

my loyal friends—

without them, 

I simply would never be



According to an American Writers Museum press release, “This free writing competition is part of the AWM’s efforts to motivate and inspire the young writers of tomorrow.”

Teachers across the United States of America were invited to submit entries of any genre from 3rd-grade through 12th-grade students using the James Baldwin quote as “a jumping-off point, a first line from which students can write their imagining of the place in which they will fit.” The AWM press release stated.

AWM will present $10,000 in scholarships and prizes  to the six national finalists:

  • The high school winners are Elizabeth Boguslavsky, Glenbard South High School, IL and Lana Olarte, Durham School of the Arts, NC.
  • The middle school winners are Ali Giordano, Lazar Middle School, NJ and Alisha Walker, Lincoln Middle School, IL.
  • The elementary school winners are Olivia Bakal, Oakwood School, CA and Evelyn Basken, Alcott College Prep Elementary School, IL.

The mission of the American Writers Museum is to "engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives." The American Writers Museum is located in Chicago, Illinois, and has a strong virtual presence as well as an in-person gallery space.

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