Hard habit to break: Driggs students win national poster contest — againJun 18, 2019 02:17PM ● By Heather Lawrence
“I worked hard to get the fire just right,” said Driggs student Penny Atkinson of her national first prize poster. (image courtesy Rob Atkinson)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
“This is getting to be a bit of a habit,” said Mayor Robert Dahle of Holladay at Howard R. Driggs Elementary School on May 22. Dahle was there, again, to support students who had winning entries in the national Smokey the Bear poster contest.
Driggs had over 170 entries in the contest, but the big win was 10-year-old Penny Atkinson. Penny’s poster entry won the national first prize for her grade. Her prize includes a trip to Washington, D.C. in August for her whole family.
“I worked hard on my entry. I started at the end of August and worked until January when I had to turn it in. I take art classes each week, and I worked on it every week. I spent the first two months just on the bear,” Penny said.
The contest is sponsored by the National Garden Club. Connie MacKay is the president of the local chapter, and she coordinates with Driggs teacher Alison Jueschke to encourage Driggs students to enter the contest each year.
“We need to make our children more aware of fire safety and the role that they play in saving our forests. Ninety percent of our annual wildfires are caused by people,” MacKay said.
The assembly was run by Principal Benjamin Peters and had so many visitors they had to open the cafeteria and set up extra chairs. Dahle, the local fire battalion, Forest Service personnel and MacKay were all in attendance. And there was one very special visitor who was celebrating his 75th birthday: Smokey the Bear.
“As fun as the contest is, the important thing here is the message: fire is a tool, not a toy. We don’t play with fire. These kids are all helping to get out that message,” said Dahle.
Penny’s parents Melissa and Rob Atkinson watched proudly as Penny was recognized at the assembly. “She worked so hard. For a long time she couldn’t get the fire just right and she was frustrated. We weren’t sure she was going to finish,” said Melissa.
The Atkinsons found out that Penny had won at a state-wide level in February. Then in May, Peters and Jueschke called Melissa to tell them that Penny had won the national prize, but asked her not to tell Penny yet.
“It was really hard to keep it a secret! After they called I had to go outside and call Rob to tell him. We wanted it to be a surprise until the awards night at the Garden Club,” said Melissa.
Driggs students are encouraged by MacKay and Jueschke to enter the contest each year. Though she can’t help them, Jueschke does make valuable suggestions. “She gave me pointers on what judges look for. She said just to keep it simple, and suggested I add in the words at the last minute,” Penny said.
In addition to the trip in August, Penny will get a $50 cash prize and a framed copy of her entry. Her artwork may also be used for future advertising, so it could pop up on a billboard or website.
Penny said she’s excited to visit the monuments in Washington, D.C. and have a fun experience. “I’ve been to D.C. a lot for work lately, so I’ve been showing her pictures and she’s excited to go,” said dad Rob.
Penny is glad she put in the extra effort. “I would tell other students to try their best and not give up. And don’t play with matches!”