The city of Half Moon Bay and the Cabrillo Unified School District marked October as LGTBQ History Month. That left some in a poetic frame of mind.

Five entrants from three schools — Half Moon Bay and Pescadero high schools as well as Cunha Intermediate School — each submitted their work before the Oct. 25 deadline for a new poetry contest. Local nonprofit CoastPride sponsored the contest and partnered with another new nonprofit, Coastal Literary Arts Movement, for the judging and criteria. 

The winners of the LGBTQ-themed poetry contest have been announced. The five poems were judged by a three-person panel that included Abraham Escalante, Pat Connolly and Mary Wynne.

Sophie Mateja from Pescadero High School won first place overall for her aptly titled work “Poem.” She took home a $100 prize. Second place and $50 went to the author of “Isolation,” which was penned by a Half Moon Bay High School student who wished to remain anonymous. 

Another Half Moon Bay student won $25 in third place for “Gender Pride.” 

There was a tie for fourth between eighth-grader Anna Bryant of Cunha for “Lovely” and another Half Moon Bay High School student for a poem titled “Little Bit.”

All entrants will receive direct feedback from the judges on their work. CLAM founder and CEO Louie Castoria said this kind of collaboration between agencies and school aligned with his nonprofit’s mission. 

“I was impressed by the maturity of the authors, especially given that we have one who’s still in middle school,” Castoria said. “They took it very seriously and put clear thought into it. I thought back to myself in high school, in New Mexico where I was raised, and I don’t think I or most of my classmates could have written things that were as

moving and clear as what these students wrote.”

Castoria explained that the judging criteria was meant to delve into the content, not critique for grammatical mistakes. He also said he was pleased with the outreach CoastPride did to get multiple responses from three different schools. 

“I think it means that CoastPride was correct in believing that there was a great hunger for students to be able to express themselves on the subject,” Castoria said. “They tapped into something real, and the proof is on the paper.

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