Poem earns local student Young Georgia Authors state commendation

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Ariana Pimentel was a Young Georgia Authors state-level winner as a sixth-grader for her poem "El Agua," and "I'm proud of myself," she said. 

Ariana Pimentel adroitly blended English and Spanish, as well as history with contemporary immigration, and her resulting poem was named a state winner for Young Georgia Authors.

"I was surprised, because I didn't think I'd make it that far, and I'm not that great of a writer — I write my own stories, but I don't show them to anyone — but this encourages me to do more writing," said Pimentel, who is now a seventh-grader but won the award as a sixth-grader at Eastbrook Middle School. "I'm proud of myself."

Pimentel's poem, "El Agua," written during the contentious 2020 election cycle, is "very powerful, (and) we're so proud of her," said Karey Williams, deputy superintendent of Whitfield County Schools. "She did a beautiful job interweaving Spanish and English" in the poem, and to be a state winner for Young Georgia Authors is "an amazing accomplishment." Young Georgia Authors is a writing competition sponsored by the Georgia Language Arts Supervisors and the Georgia RESA Network with support from the Georgia Department of Education.

Pimentel was motivated to write a poem about immigration when she read the novel "Refugee" by Alan Gratz in her social studies class taught by Sarah Nichols, she said. The book focuses on three refugees, and Pimentel connected with Isabel Fernandez, a Cuban teen who flees Fidel Castro's Cuba with her family and others in the 1990s.

Fixated on the perils of trying to come to America on a boat, water became the theme of the poem, leading to the poem's title, which means water in Spanish, Pimentel said. Once she had her title, the rest of the poem "flowed" like water.

"A lot of inspiration strikes at random moments," she said. "You never know with poetry."

While America's current battle over immigration and immigrants is clearly "hinted at" in the poem, "she does it with a lot of grace, and that stood out to me the first time I read it," said Robyn Scott, Eastbrook's principal. "There's no anger or pointedness."

"The patience and elegance spoke to me," Scott added. "It's a very kind poem about something that matters."

Pimentel was invited to read her poem for the Whitfield County Board of Education during the board's August meeting, and audio of Pimentel reading her poem can be found online at https://youtu.be/BRZWITjy5fU.

Pimentel only competed one other time in Young Georgia Authors, with an essay in fifth grade, but she was hardly a poetry neophyte before "El Agua," she said. "I did some poems for Mother's Day and Father's Day."

Her mother looked over "El Agua" as she compiled it, making sure Spanish grammar was correct, she said. "I don't speak Spanish as much as I used to, but I want to keep that alive inside of me."

When she was named a state winner, her family "was really proud," but she knew the poem impacted them even before her victory, she said.

"A lot of (my family members) cried when they read it, because they had similar experiences, or they know someone with similar experiences."

She even elicited tears from some of her former teachers at Cedar Grove Elementary School, and she was gratified the poem touched so many, she said.

"I was happy, not that they cried, but that (the poem) was very good."

Pimentel is "very sweet, kind of an old soul, and very deliberate, in a good way," Scott said. "She is so respectful — her nature is respectful — that she would never publish something disrespectful, and that respectfulness" permeates "El Agua," which is full of "acceptance, not anger."

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