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Students win medals in Memorial Day contest

In a room surrounded by the red, white and blue of America and with more than 100 people looking on Friday night at St. Anastasia’s in Douglaston, Sumin Kim, 10, had something to say about Memorial Day and the Korean War.

“I’m Korean. I am thankful for America’s army,” said the PS 221 fifth-grader as she read her award-winning entry into the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Committee’s arts and essay contest.

“My grandmother’s grandmother is North Korean,” she said with a moderate Korean accent. “I want to know my great grandmother’s name and what she looks like. I wish North Korea and South Korea would be peaceful together and never fight.”

Kim was one of 20 youngsters from Little Neck and Douglaston who went to St. Anastasia’s last week to claim their prizes in the parade committee’s annual arts and essay contest. Medals and certificates were presented to the winners by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

Winners were invited to a colorfully decorated Father Smith Hall at the St. Anastasia School in Douglaston to read their essays and see their artwork on display. Surrounded by red, white and blue streamers, stars and crepe paper, families and parade committee members enjoyed the ceremonies before chowing down on pizza provided by the committee.

Edith Basom, who helped organize the contest, told the students to let their success “inspire you to reach ever hirer goals.”

Jim Rodgers, who along with Gil Krasnoff co-chaired the 2001 parade committee, told the audience “this is the best part of our job.”

Padavan, who has marched in the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade every year for three decades, praised the event and the committee.

“Certainly it’s the best,” he said of the parade. “What’s great about it and what this ceremony personifies is that we are teaching our children what Memorial Day is all about.”

Basom said the message of Memorial Day and the 2001 parade theme, the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, definitely reached through to the winners.

Winning artwork depicted wounded soldiers, fighter planes and colorful flags to describe the Korean conflict of the 1950s and the horrors of war.

Essays chosen as winners by the parade committee included poems and stories about veterans in the students’ families as well as thank you’s for America’s freedom.

One parent said the arts and essay contest was an important part of the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day festivities.

“It makes me feel like I’m part of the community,” said Sheerazi Saji, whose son Saboor won the fourth-grade prize for his poem.

Like Sumin Kim, who expressed her gratitude for America’s help in the Korean War, Elizabeth Jeong, a sixth-grader at MS 67 in Little Neck, also had something to say about the anniversary of the conflict.

“The fact that I am Korean makes me think much more about the war and how it was like,” she said as she read her winning essay. “My family was very lucky that none of us were separated or killed or else it would change our whole family tree and I might never have been born.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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