By Curt Yeomans
Syretha Long considers herself to be an artist, and says she loves drawing much more than another form of expression - writing.
But, despite her strong preference for the visual arts, Long, 10, a fifth-grader at Callaway Elementary School in Jonesboro, is being recognized by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's Ready Georgia Program for her writing skills.
Long finished second in a statewide emergency-preparedness-themed essay contest, for her poem, entitled, "Get Ready Georgia." The contest was sponsored by the Ready Georgia program, and nearly 1,000 fifth-graders across the state participated, according to Ready Georgia Spokesperson Sarah Waters.
"I wasn't really expecting to do that well, so it feels good that out of all the people in the state who entered this contest, my poem was chosen among the top three entries," Long said.
The contest was done in conjunction with September being the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Preparedness Month.
The Ready Georgia program also conducted an art contest in September. Another Clayton County Public Schools student, West Clayton Elementary School fifth-grader, Linwood Richardson, earned an honorable mention in the art contest.
First-, second-, and third-place winners in the essay contest receive prize packages, which include a readiness kit from Home Depot, a CD from Radio Disney, and gifts from Imagine It! The Children's Museum of Atlanta.
"All of the insightful entries showed us that children enjoy being part of the preparedness process and that knowing what to do and where to go makes them feel more secure during what could be a threatening situation," said GEMA Director Charley English. "It was tough to choose just a few winners."
In Long's poem, she urged people to develop a family plan, in case of an emergency; decide how to contact family members, and have a list of important phone numbers and web sites. She also mentioned various types of emergencies that could occur, including fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks.
"There are many types of emergencies," Long wrote in her poem. "I'll tell you a few.
"Listen carefully to what I'm saying,
"And you'll know just what to do."
Long, whose dreams include, someday, being a fashion designer and hair stylist, said poetry is not something that comes easily to her. She said it was more of an interest for her older sister, Georgia Perimeter College student, Krysten Long.
But Long's teachers said she is a better writer than she lets on. Her entry was submitted by her science teacher, Erica Williams, who had all of her fifth-grade students write something for the contest for a class grade. The assignments that earned a grade of "A" were then submitted as contest entries, Williams said.
"What stood out to me about Syretha's poem was the creativity she displayed in it," Williams said. "I saw Syretha come out."
Long said her family does have some plans in place in case of a tornado, or a fire. "If we have a tornado, my familiy's plan is to go into the basement, where we have a large futon that we can take the mattress off of, and cover ourselves with it in the bathtub," she said.
"In case of a fire, there is a ladder that my mom put under my bed, so we can climb out of our window, and then, we will either gather at the mailbox, or across the street, at the home of one of my dad's friends," she added. "We've got a few different supplies, like tools and flashlights, but we haven't put them in a container, yet."