Friday, March 24, 2017

Scholastic Spotlight: Alison Gaarsland

Gold Key Award winner Ali Gaarsland at the North Dakota Ceremony
Today our Scholastic Spotlight features one of North Dakota's National Award Winners. As a state level Gold Key winner, Alison Gaarsland's work was forwarded to the national competition in New York City, where she won a gold medal AND the New York Life Award for her poem, To Dad." The latter award comes with a $1,000 cash prize.

Alison Gaarsland's bio

I have always been interested in writing. In elementary school, I would write stories, and English was my favorite subject. I got into poetry after I took a creative writing class my sophomore year.  We had a poetry project where we had to write 10 poems, and I remember telling my teacher,  I can't write poems, I don't know how to rhyme!"   During this time, I was living by myself at the Youth Works Shelter. This was an extremely difficult time in my life. I stayed up till two in the morning almost every night with the staff and they would help me think of words that rhymed with what I was trying to say. After practice, it became an easy flow. That summer I went on a lot of church trips. To pass time on the bus, I would listen to music and write.  Someone special to me once said, “I just love watching you write.” That has always stuck with me. That was about a year ago, and since then I have filled almost two journals.

I have been through different challenging situations in my life, After my dad died in 2015, our lives kinda fell apart. Through family members struggling, living in a shelter, and switching schools, writing was something that really helped me through my grieving process. My dad was someone who I
looked up to and always felt I could be open and honest with.  Writing has been more for my personal growth than anything. It became a way for me to reflect on my emotions and grow with understanding who I am and what I want to be.  

In my future, I think my biggest goal is to prove I went through the things I did for a reason. I hope to always do what makes me happy. I plan to go to college to get my BSN to become an international travel nurse. Currently, I am working to get my CNA and plan to work at a nursing home during the summer.

Winning a Gold key in nationals in itself was a shock and really exciting. To be one of six in the nation that won the New York Life award is just beyond amazing. To be recognized for writing about something so personal is really important to me. I am beyond excited to ride a plane for the first time and see the city of New York and accept my awards at Carnegie Hall!

I entered 5 poems together as a collection--they all had the same subject idea about my dad.

If you or someone you know would like to support Ali's travel to the National Ceremony in New York City, please click on her GoFundMe page.

Gaarsland, Alison
Grade: 11
School: Fargo South High School, Fargo ND Educators: Jaclyn Brown
AWARD: Gold Key

I still love my dad Although he is dead
But matters most is
The things he always said

We shared so many
Common traits
Music; it was our fate
Don’t dare listen to what they say It doesn't matter anyway

I feel him with me
vibes continue strong Encouraging, Understanding Pushing me on
To the best I can be
Never held back
But totally set free

So blessed to have you but I freaking miss you Thanks Dad
I love you too

I remember
I remember
I remember my father
I remember his smile
reading children's books in a funny voice “No cop no stop”
His horrible sense of humor
I remember his smell after showers dancing in the living room
yelling at the Vikings game
his pale bare chest
Him Dancing at the grocery store
Warm breath in the morning
His dorky laugh

but I also remember
I remember
How his bruised eyes looked
The hospital room smell
His swollen hands
Visible pumps that drained old blood
I remember the news articles filling up my world
I remember sleeping next to him on the hospital bed
The way he was so still
His swollen head wrapped in cloth
The doctors yelling and Family crying
His calm face lost in a coma
The last words I whispered to him
I remember my dad but I also remember what those men did to him

I’m forgetting
Your face seems so lost to me Completely escaped my memory
I look at pictures of your smile
But I only remember the bruises so vile

Your voice, a calming song Now it's gone
Your scent so warm and detailed Now it's confusing and wrinkled
Without you the days feel long But I try to stay strong
I still don't understand
It's like a nightmare, so sad.

There I lay
My fingers numb
My eyes only see grey

If only I knew
How very little I meant to you

But I didn't
You see, to me
You were the light in darkness The directions to my destiny My forever home to be

Crushed I didn't know what hurt me more My heart or my mind
I paced what will I do
Where will I go

Without you.

My Grief
Don't tell me you understand Don't say you know
Don't tell me I will survive Or for sure grow

Don't say this is just a test That I'm truly blessed
That I am chosen for this task Apart from the rest

Don't come at me with answers That can only come from me
Don't say my grief will pass That I should soon be free
Don't tell me how to suffer Don't tell me how to cry
Because honestly
I shouldn't have had to say goodbye.