SBHS senior wins River of Words grand prize

Jennifer Yoldi says she’s not an artist.
But that didn’t stop the San Benito High School senior from
winning the grand prize in the River of Words Youth Environmental
Poetry and Art Contest, an annual competition co-founded by the
former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas.
Hollister – Jennifer Yoldi says she’s not an artist.

But that didn’t stop the San Benito High School senior from winning the grand prize in the River of Words Youth Environmental Poetry and Art Contest, an annual competition co-founded by the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas.

“I can’t draw,” she said. “I can just smear dust with my finger and make a picture.”

Her winning picture “A Baby Sea Turtle Struggles Toward the Receding Ocean” – a title that perfectly describes the art piece – was created with conte’ crayon, a charcoal-like medium that is Yoldi’s favorite.

Yoldi was at home when she got the phone call. The woman on the other end told Yoldi that she won.

“I was completely shocked,” Yoldi said. “I didn’t even believe her.”

Once the news sunk in, she drove two miles to tell her mother at church.

“Any talent I have, I get from my mom. She’s the best artist I know,” Yoldi said.

As a contest winner, Yoldi will spend an expense-paid weekend in San Francisco in June and take part in an awards ceremony. Her art will be displayed throughout the world.

The picture that garnered Yoldi grand prize shows a green leatherback sea turtle pulling out of its egg shell and crawling across the sand toward a ripple of white sea foam.

“I really have a place in my heart for sea turtles,” she said. “I’m a water person. I have a thing for water and water animals.”

Once when visiting Hawaii, Yoldi couldn’t resist breaking the rules and she took a ride through the warm Pacific on the back of a sea turtle.

It was SBHS art teacher John Robrock who suggested that Yoldi enter the contest.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I make them put a lot of work in. And when they put the effort in, it pays off.”

But Yoldi doesn’t take her success in the contest as a sign that she should dedicate her life to making art.

“I consider art as a hobby, but I don’t think I’m an artist,” she said. “It’s something fun – a cool hobby.”

Yoldi wants to be a cardiac surgeon, because becoming a brain surgeon takes to long, she joked.

“I like the idea of being able to help people on that intimate level,” she said.

Two other SBHS students, John Dixon and Kayla Ferriera, were chosen as finalists in the contest.

And last year SBHS student Lindsay Waltatka won the grand prize for a pastel drawing.

In its 10th year, the River of Words Youth Environmental Poetry and Art Contest accepts poetry and artwork from students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The theme for the poems and art is ‘watersheds’.

“We believe water issues will be the biggest issue faced by kids when they are adults,” said River of Words co-founder Pamela Michael. “Kids need a deep-rooted understanding and connection with the earth.”

Luke Roney covers education and agriculture for the Free Lance. Reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 335 or at [email protected]

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