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Greg Noritake’s BHS class took first place in the “Dare Not To Swear” poetry contest. - Photo by Wesley Remmer
Greg Noritake’s BHS class took first place in the “Dare Not To Swear” poetry contest.
— image credit: Photo by Wesley Remmer

By WESLEY REMMER

Staff writer

Madonna Hanna and her 2005-06 advanced fashion marketing class created the “Dare Not To Swear!” campaign to eliminate foul language at Bremerton High School, encouraging pure mouths to foster a clean school climate.

Hanna’s current class implemented the idea, declaring Oct. 26, 2007, “Dare Not To Swear! Day,” and the campaign continues to grow in effectiveness and popularity.

“Dare Not To Swear!” received a $6,000 grant from the Milken Family Foundation — an organization which encourages people to better their own lives and the communities they belong to — which has enabled Hanna and her students to expand the campaign outside the walls of BHS, sharing the anti-swearing message with other schools in the Bremerton School District.

“The grant creates an opportunity to visit each school in the district, to spread the anti-swearing message and give each child a “Dare Not To Swear!” souvenir,” Hanna said. “It also provides an opportunity to praise students for their exceptional involvement in “Dare Not To Swear!”

And on Monday afternoon in Hanna’s classroom — at the “Dare Not To Swear!” poetry contest award ceremony — praise is what students received, as elementary through high school-aged students came together to share anti-swearing poetry.

“Students were given an opportunity to give voice to their poetic works,” Hanna said of Monday’s event, which awarded the top poems and culminated months of hard work. “Monday’s event was gratifying.”

Third, fourth and fifth grade students from West Hills Elementary School, as well as students from BHS, read their poems aloud in front of fellow students and district staff.

“I was a little nervous at first, but we practiced a lot,” said Zach Cortina, a student in Greg Noritake’s ninth grade class, which took first prize at the high school level.

“They’re feelin’ it, and it’s a good feeling,” Noritake said of his students. “They’re extremely proud of what they did, and it’s a really, really exciting day.”

And while Noritake’s class presented its winning poem as a team, West Hills Elementary students took the stage alone, receiving individual awards for their writing.

“It’s rewarding, to get all this stuff,” said Summer Borcherding, a fifth-grader at West Hills who took first prize at her grade level.

Borcherding believes poetry is inspiring and encourages others not to swear. “It (poetry) helps you not swear, and it’s really fun,” she added.

While earning the respect of classmates and teachers, Borcherding and other first-place winners also received prizes, ranging from individualized bookmarks and posters, to gift cards, to fudge from.

“The icing on the cake was presenting winners with their poems printed on bookmarks and posters that will be distributed around the district,” said Hanna.

Monday’s event, Hanna said, was made possible by the Milken grant. And Greg Gallagher, the Milken Festival for Youth program administrator, flew from California to witness the ceremony first-hand.

“I think it’s really important for young kids to learn that words make a difference,” Gallagher said. “It’s important (for the kids) to build a habit of speaking without expletives.”

And Gallagher, who has volunteered at the Milken Family Foundation for 14 years, said he was impressed by Bremerton’s students’ excitement about “Dare Not To Swear!”

“Their enthusiasm for this project is inspiring,” he said. “Hopefully when these students hear cursing, they will think of this program and the seeds (of the program) will grow.”

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