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2011 Contest

Breathing Easier – What Can We Do? It’s Up to Me and You!

Students recognized for creativity on the importance of protecting land resources

On Saturday, April 2, Illinois EPA Associate Director Elmo Dowd honored a group of distinguished Illinois fifth and sixth grade students selected for their creative skills used to express environmental awareness, as part of the Agency’s 24th annual Poster, Poetry and Prose Contest. This year’s theme focused on air pollution and ways to prevent it with Breathing Easier – What Can We Do? It’s Up to Me and You!

The writers and artists selected from throughout Illinois were recognized at a reception in the Howlett Building in downtown Springfield.

“The environmental decisions we make today will affect these students in the future,” said Associate Director Dowd. “Part of environmental stewardship is educating others, I am confident that these students will help others in their communities to make good environmental decisions.”

A panel from the Illinois EPA judged all entries and selected the finalists, whose entries were then judged by an outside panel of authorities, to determine the top 12 winners.

Reem Habeeb with Washington School, Glenview: “My work shows my thoughts on how we the people can make a huge difference on the quality of our air for the benefit of future generations.”

Nissa Larson with Jefferson Elementary School, Charleston: “I hope that this artwork will help make the Earth a better place to live, even if it's just a little bit at a time!”

Maggie Neff with Rotolo Middle School, Batavia: “I really think I did a good job with this poem. I believe in everything I wrote about in it. I have asthma problems myself, so I know how important it is to have clean and fresh air.”

Each spring, students learn about environmental protection of the air, land, and water through the Agency’s environmental education guide, “Environmental Pathways – Youth Investigating Pollution Issues in Illinois.” Following the completion of the guide, students use their creative talents to visually articulate, in the form of a poster or a written work, their ideas of how they can protect our precious resources – air, land, and water. Special emphasis is given to one of those three areas on an annual, rotating basis with this year’s focus being on preventing air pollution.

The students, their families, and teachers were invited to the reception at which the top 12 winners received U.S. savings bonds and environmental reference books for their school libraries. The winners, along with all finalists, also received certificates and ribbons for their creative efforts.

Poetry/Prose Top Award Winners:

Emily Koch

A-C Central Middle School

Cameron Kruger

Manteno Middle School

Maggie Neff

Rotolo Middle School

Malika Ramani

Avery Coonley School

Isabella Spinelli

Avery Coonley School

Spencer Stowell

Jefferson Elementary School

Posters Top Award Winners:

Madeline Cohen

Avery Coonley School

Reem Habeeb

Washington School

Marco Lambo

Washington School

Nissa Larson

Jefferson Elementary School

Jessica Rangel

Middleton Elementary School

Julia Romanowski

Timber Ridge Middle School

In addition to the award, tours of the Capitol and the Illinois State Museum were given to winners before and after the awards ceremony.

Special Recognition Awards



  • Sarah Barbush, Rotolo Middle School
  • Elizabeth Baubkus, St. Walter School
  • Dean Calandra, Hellenic American Academy
  • *Max Calk, East Lake Academy
  • Kristofer Casey, Grove Elementary
  • Kirby Cowman, A-C Central Middle School
  • Caitlin Feely, Grove Elementary
  • Megan Gubbels, Ransom Grade School
  • Elizabeth Guenther, Countryside School
  • Phallyn Habercoss, St. Cletus School
  • Kaitlyn Hansen, Rotolo Middle School
  • Daniel Henson, Jefferson Elementary School
  • John Horcher, East Lake Academy
  • *Sam Hotchkiss, Countryside School
  • *Rhyan Komsthoeft, St. Cletus School
  • *Rachel Lindauer, St. Agatha School
  • Megan McShane, Manteno Middle
  • *Navya Narendra, Grove Elementary
  • Cassandra Opeña, Washington School
  • Nicholas M. Perez, Maple Elementary
  • Margaret Rauch, Prince of Peace School
  • Andrew James Schramka, St. Cletus School
  • Zackery Sederstrom, Maple Elementary
  • Kathy Sliwinski, Washington School
  • Sydney Stoneback, Rotolo Middle School
  • *Phillip Wessel, A-C Central Middle School
  • Abby Wombacher, St. Agatha School
  • Grace Woods, Meadowview School
  • Maria Almaraz, North Elementary School
  • Amanda Arendt, St. Walter School
  • Emma Berry, Countryside School
  • *Anna Cichorz, Meadowview School
  • Kathleen Cross, Washington School
  • Alex Cruz, Ransom Grade School
  • Luke Dorais, Middleton Elementary School
  • *Iyke George, Middleton Elementary School
  • Chelsea Getz, Meridian Middle School
  • Shauntel Henderson, Winnebago Elementary
  • Hiba Karim, G. Stanley Hall Elementary
  • Erin Kelly, A-C Central Middle School
  • Abigail Kobal, Meadowview School
  • *Victoria Kruzel, Winnebago Elementary
  • *Kiana Ledesma, Resa Middle School
  • Marie Lockowitz, Meadowview School
  • Jasmine Meza, Winnebago Elementary
  • Mary O'Kane, Middleton Elementary School
  • Maria Olaez, North Elementary School
  • Marissa Oliver, Meridian Middle School
  • Ryan Payne, Ina Grade School
  • Natalia Pieczonka, Washington School
  • *Grace Qiu, Countryside School
  • Sam Rahman, St. Cletus School
  • Aysha Reed, Maple Elementary
  • Brian Rogers, Jack London Middle School
  • Emily Rose, Meadowview School
  • Alondra Sarabia, Reskin School
  • Christina Sellountos, Hellenic American Academy
  • Sierra Sprague, Maple Elementary
  • Adam James Trainor, Ransom Grade School
  • Brianna Tran, G. Stanley Hall Elementary
  • *Heather Vogt, St. Cletus School
  • Kyle Voights, Ransom Grade School
  • Anna Wojcik, East Lake Academy
  • Alyssa Zamora, Prince of Peace School

* Honorable Mention

Information about the annual event can be obtained by contacting Kristi Morris, environmental education coordinator for the Illinois EPA at 1021 North Grand Avenue E., P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, IL, 62794-9276.