Saint Mary's Presents 17th Annual River of Words Youth Creativity Awards in Washington, D.C.

Former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass to Emcee Library of Congress Ceremony

MORAGA, Calif. (March 23, 2012) Ten remarkable young poets and artists, ranging from age 7 to 16, and more than a dozen national finalists, will be honored at the 17th annual River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards on Monday, April 23, 2012 at 7 p.m. at the Library of Congress, Madison Building, Montpelier Room, 6th floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, DC.

Conducted in affiliation with the Library of Congress Center for the Book, the annual River of Words (ROW) contest, which celebrates both National Poetry Month and Earth Day, is the largest youth poetry and art competition in the world. The River of Words International Youth Creativity Awards features award winning children's poetry and art from around the world, musical performances and recognizes educational leadership in environmental literacy.

Award winners include young people from across the country, including Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New York and the International Art Prize winner: an Afghan refugee living in Pakistan, who plans to attend the event.

River of Words (ROW) is a project of the Center for Environmental Literacy at Saint Mary’s College of California — which promotes education initiatives which integrate nature and the arts into K-12 classrooms. The program inspires children and youth to translate their observations about their local watersheds and environment into creative expressions in poems and paintings. It also trains educators around the world how to incorporate nature exploration, science and the arts into their work with young people.

The ROW International Youth Creativity Awards will be emceed by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, who co-founded the contest in 1995 with Pamela Michael, who now directs the Center for Environmental Literacy at Saint Mary's. The 2012 winners and finalists were selected from thousands of entries from around the world by contest co-founders Hass and Michael and renowned children’s book author and illustrator Thacher Hurd.

“The mission of River of Words’ is to promote literacy, the arts, and environmental awareness. Our goal is to help children fall in love with the earth, and you can see in the works of these young artists a deep and respectful love of the world around them,” said Hass.

In addition to recognizing extraordinary art and poetry by talented young people, the ceremony will honor the first recipient of the River of Words/Saint Mary’s College Kalmanovitz School of Education’s 2012 Teacher of the Year award, Harriet Maher of Lafayette, Louisiana. “River of Words not only recognizes the talent of some truly amazing young poets and artists, it fosters environmental awareness and creativity among children and teachers and their communities,” said Michael.

Attendees will also be treated to the musical performance of the “River of Words Song Cycle” by Southwestern University Music Professors David Asbury and Bruce Cain. On tour across the nation (including a concert at Kennedy Center), the song cycle takes poems selected from past ROW winners and sets them to music.

When: 7 p.m. Monday, April 23, 2012

Where: Library of Congress, Madison Building, Montpelier Room, 6th floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE, Washington, DC.

The 2012 River of Words Youth Creativity Award Winners include:

 Rohullah Hassani                  

Age 16              

Quetta, Pakistan (Afghan refugee)   

 Poetry Grand Prizes


 Blakely Berryhill

Age  7  

  Vestavia Hills,Alabama

Category I: Grades K-2

Xavier Mendoza                                                   

 Age 9 

 Lancaster, Pennsylvania  

 Category II: Grades 3-6

 Pi’ikea Lopes

 Age 12

 Honolulu, Hawaii   

 Category III: Grades 7-9

 Cathy Guo

 Age 15

 Madison, Connecticut

Category IV: Grades 10-12

 Art Grand Prizes


Kristina Yu  

Age 6 

Suwanee, Georgia  

Category I: Grades K-2

Jack Colin Robertson

Age 8

Cumming, Georgia

Category II: Grades 3-6

Morgan Rozek

Age 13

Madison, Alabama

Category III: Grades 7-9

Bill He Li

Age 16   

Bayside Hills, New York 

Category IV: Grades 10-12

Special Prizes


Mitchell Oberfoell

 Age 8 

West Des Moines, Iowa

 Monkey's Raincoat Haiku Prize

Allison Chang 

 Age 15

Sunnyvale, California

 Shasta Bioregion Prize

Julian Dixon

 Age 11

Washington, D.C.

 Anacostia Watershed Priz

Teacher of the Year


Harriet Maher 

Lafayette Parish School System,  Lafayette, Louisiana

2012 Finalists hail from: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Australia, Canada, Chile and the Philippines

Background: For more information about the River of Words Youth Creativity Awards, or to request digital files of winning art and texts of the poems, contact: Pamela Michael, Director, River of Words and Center for Environmental Literacy, Kalmanovitz School of Education, Saint Mary's College of CA at 925.631.4289, 510.914.1583 (mobile) or by email at; or visit

Michael McAlpin
Director of Media Relations
(925) 631-4222 office
(925) 878-9535 cell

The Saint Mary’s College of California experience inspires learning that lasts a lifetime. For nearly 150 years, the College has provided students with a rigorous education that engages their intellect and spirit, and awakens a desire to transform society. Guided by the Christian Brothers, the Catholic Church’s oldest order dedicated exclusively to teaching, the College enrolls more than 3,800 students in undergraduate and graduate liberal arts and business programs. For more information visit Saint Mary’s College at and just 23 miles east of San Francisco.