Missing Children’s Day Poster designed by Oneida County fifth-grader wins
New York State contest, state winner to compete for national award
A poster designed by a fifth-grader from the Sauquoit Valley Middle School in Oneida County will be New York State’s entry in the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest being sponsored next month by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Designed by 10-year-old Alena Weibel, the poster was one of approximately 40 entered in a contest coordinated by the New York State Missing Person Clearinghouse, which is part of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Her first-prize poster will compete against those created by her peers across the country in the national competition, which is designed to raise awareness about missing children cases across the country.
The winner of the national contest will be announced next month in Washington, D.C., with the student’s poster used to promote National Missing Children’s Day 2015. May 25 has been marked annually as Missing Children’s Day since 1983. Four years earlier on that date, 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City street on his way to school; his was one of the first missing children cases to receive national attention.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “The posters submitted were creative and colorful, but perhaps more importantly, the designs also captured a true sense of empathy for children who have gone missing and the family members they left behind, as well as hope that families may one day be reunited. I commend all students who participated in the contest, congratulate the winners and wish Alena the best as she competes against her peers next month.”
The contest was open to fifth-graders. In addition to submitting a poster, students were required to write an essay of 100 words or fewer describing their design and why they created it.
Alena wrote: “I created my poster to bring awareness to the missing children in the world. My poster was a picture of a table with a picture frame with a cut out of a missing child showing that the child was gone. Behind it there’s a family portrait with the child’s mom, dad and brother. But the child was cut out of the picture showing that they were gone. In both pictures showing the missing child, it had a question mark on the face.”
Alena attends the same school as Sara Anne Wood, who was 12 years old when she went missing in August 1993. Three years later, Lewis Lent was sentenced to 25 years to life in Herkimer County Court after admitting that he killed Sara Anne; her body has never been found.
Three judges evaluated the posters’ designs and accompanying essays: Elizabeth Cronin, director of the state Office of Victim Services; Barbara Reeley, whose adopted grandson, 12-year-old Jaliek Rainwalker, has been missing from Greenwich, Washington County, since November 2007; and Michael R. Wood, a deputy commissioner with DCJS.
The judging was done anonymously, with the judges learning the students’ names and schools and reading biographies that were submitted only after they selected the winners. The judges selected Alena’s poster because they believed it struck a balance between sadness and hope: beside the portrait of the missing child is a vase filled with brightly colored flowers.
Alena received a $50 gift card to Michael’s Arts and Crafts store for first prize. The other contest winners are:
- Second Place: Alixander Pauldine, a student at Fitzhugh Park Elementary School in Oswego, Oswego County, received a $25 gift card to Michael’s. His poster features a pencil drawing of a police officer and child, seen only from behind. They stand at the end of a winding path that leads to a home. It also includes the names of missing children who were later found and reunited with their families and the phrase “Don’t stop looking, night or day.”
- Third Place: Mackenzy L. Peters, a student at N.R. Kelley Intermediate School in Newark, Wayne County, received a $10 gift card to Michael’s. Mackenzy’s poster depicts the earth flanked by two smiling children. Footsteps from the earth run through the center of an American flag, leading to a home surrounded by more smiling faces.
- Honorable Mention: Amelia Newton, a student at Cincinnatus Central School in Cincinnatus, Cortland County. Amelia’s poster features a home held in clasped hands, surrounded by children with sad faces wearing bright clothes. Other figures are drawn in pencil and feature question marks instead of facial features.
All posters entered in the contest will be displayed on the Concourse at the Empire State Plaza in Albany during the week of May 25 to mark National Missing Children’s Day.
The Missing Persons Clearinghouse at DCJS assists law enforcement agencies by providing training, case management guidance and investigative support, such as publicizing missing children cases. It also administers the state’s Missing Child Alerts, which are activated when a case involving a missing child under the age of 21 doesn’t meet AMBER Alert criteria.
The New York State Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) provides a safety net for innocent crime victims and family members who have no other place to turn for help, providing compensation for counseling, advocacy services and medical care, among other assistance. It also funds 230 victim assistance programs across the state.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.