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Without a Home
By Christian Olsen

Far, far, away, on the African savannah, where the gentle blue sky touches the steadfast ground, an elephant calf is born. Little elephant, blind at first, feels his way about with his trunk. He feels mothers, brothers, sisters, and cousins. His family. Because newborns are not born with tusks, he is defenseless. He is safe. He has a home. Though he might not have one later....

That night, on the African savannah, where the gentle, now purple sky touches the steadfast ground, something vile is creeping around the elephant herd, unseen and unnoticed. The poacher, hiding in the bushes, sees Mother elephant, her great tusks as soft as silk in the moonlight. He knows that the ivory will get him piles of money, to be made into pills, carvings, or billiard balls. With a gap toothed grin, he takes aim, and FIRES! A noise like a thousand rhinos charging thunders through the herd. The night is peaceful no more. The elephants, startled by the noise, tear off into the distance. But not Little elephant and Mother. Mother lies dead, the cruel poacher throwing down his illegal rifle, and coming toward her prone form, ready to relieve her of her tusks. Inside Little elephant, an ancient instinct tells him to run and hide. And he does just that. He has no home anymore. He is not safe in the cruel, once kind African savannah.

Little elephant is lost! After running blindly through the tall grass, away from the poacher, away from his old life, he laid down and slept. Nightmares chased him throughout the corridors of his mind, and woke him up with a start. When he awoke, he could see! Just a little, though. But it wasn't any use. Without Mother elephant to teach and guide him, he doesn't know how to eat or drink. He decides to look for his herd, and he wanders off into the distance, into the unknown.

After days of walking, little elephant is starving, tired as a sleeping puppy, and dying of thirst. As he plods on, he notices something in the shimmering, dusty distance. His excitement fuels his weak body on, as if he was on rocket power. Excitedly, he hurries forward to intercept it on its path from one distant place to another. It's a giant, black strip of asphalt, cutting Little Elephant's path in two. Of course, he is not running for the black stripe itself; elephants, particularly young elephants, don't know what roads are. Little elephant is running for an 18-wheeler parked on the side. For him, it is his mother, waiting for him. As he reaches it, he feels an immense tiredness weighing down on top of him. He makes it under the bottom of the hulking monolith, then collapses from exhaustion.

Hours later, Little elephant wakes up, surrounded by lots of tall creatures, with long arms and strange clothing. He tries to defend himself, but stumbles on a rock and falls to the unforgiving ground. In a flurry of movement, the strange beings pick up Little elephant and gently place him into a humongous box on wheels, made of a strangely hard material. One of the creatures whispers into his large ear, "It's okay, little Zuri, you're going home." From that moment on, Little elephant knows that his name is Zuri, which is "good" in Swahili. And he now knows that these creatures will not harm him. The metal box suddenly starts to move forward, at an alarming speed. "What's going on", Zuri wonders. Inside the cube-shaped structure, a clear tube filled with plasma is punched into Zuri's front leg, and he squeals in pain, and blacks out yet again.

When he wakes up, Zuri is on a huge plain, surrounded by tall metal fences. Gently rolling hills and a crystal-blue watering hole shimmer in the distance, with, oh the joy! Other elephants around it! Mother elephants and their calves stand and play in the water. One of the Mother elephants hears Zuri with her sensitive ears, and bellows at him. Mother elephants will adopt orphaned elephants, and this mother has done just that. Now, Zuri knows that his life is back on track; he has a name and a herd. And most importantly, he is safe. He has a home. Trumpeting joyously, Zuri runs down the hill to join his new family and his new life.

"Without a Home" By Christian Olsen | StoryMakers 2012 | Rocky Mountain PBS
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2013 StoryMakers competition a great success!

This year we received more than 730 entries across 88 cities in Colorado.
We were blown away by the talent! This state is home to some truly gifted authors.

Congratulations to our winners and finalists of the 2013 StoryMakers writing contest!

6th grade finalists

Olivia Janicek, Denver – 1st place
Maxwell Wilderson, Fort Morgan – 2nd place
Grace Patrick, Greeley – 3rd place
Ezequiel Meraz, Fort Lupton
Aileen Le, Arvada
Rebecca Chapman, Denver
Joseph Quintana, Highlands Ranch
Caitlin Kincaid, Colorado Springs

7th grade finalists

Rachel Foote, Longmont – 1st place
Edie Tavel, Denver – 2nd place
Colin Cannici, Lakewood – 3rd place
Andrew Swanback, Arvada
Ella Beringer, Castle Rock
Melody Lipke, Alamosa
Benny Khouri, Fort Collins
Emma Risdon, Longmont

8th grade finalists

Mia Nelson, Denver – 1st place
Roger Nakagawa, Denver – 2nd place
Kendal McMaster, Denver – 3rd place
Nadia Stoker, Broomfield
Elliott Wyatt, Denver
Molly Worford, Denver
Gabriella Tuell, Broomfield
Aileen Ma, Longmont

These 3 winners and 5 runners-up per grade received:

  • Digital storytelling workshop and tour of our television studios
  • Stories published on our website
  • Awesome prizes, like Kindle Fires
  • Awards luncheon for students and families featuring keynote speaker, local author and radio personality Dom TestaCentury Link.png

StoryMakers At a Glance:

  • Each year, Rocky Mountain PBS offers this unique writing contest to middle school students statewide. We are in our seventh year!
  • The contest is sponsored by CenturyLink, a longtime supporter of the program who helped conceive of the idea back in 2007 with the education department at Rocky Mountain PBS and has helped to make it possible ever since
  • Open to students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades in Colorado. Entries are judged on originality, creative expression and storytelling
  • Our three winners – one in each grade – were selected out of more than 700 applicants across the state
  • Winners and finalists met in December for a digital storytelling workshop and seminar with Rocky Mountain PBS’ executive director of I-News, Laura Frank, on the value of investigative journalism, and were celebrated at a luncheon on January 4th featuring keynote speaker and bestselling author, Dom Testa.
  • Stories were creative and powerful -- so extraordinary that the 45 volunteer judges often stopped to marvel “Wait, how old is this writer?”
  • Contest picks up again in the summer 2014 with an October submission deadline.

2013 StoryMakers Winners Featured on TV

Watch a segment of Colorado's Best Kids featuring our 2013 StoryMakers winners (video below):

2012 StoryMakers Winners and Finalists

StoryMakers Writing Contest

The 2012 Winners and Finalists are:

6th Grade
1st - Christian Olsen, "Without A Home" - Littleton, Goddard Middle School
2nd - Lydia MacRavey, "Little Bear's Arrow" - Centennial, Home Schooled
3rd - Elizabeth Blackmun, "Lady of the Lake" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts

Chloe Applegate, "Rainin's River" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Ella Beringer, "The Chase" - Castle Rock, Soaring Hawk
Ashlyn Kofford, "The Life Necklace" - Longmont, Westview Middle School
Drew Sims, "A Little Help" - La Junta, La Junta Intermediate School
William Underhill, "Bernard" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts

7th Grade
1st - Annie Lell, "Blue Moon" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School
2nd - Mia Nelson, "Deaf Prayers"
 - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
3rd - Jake Daniel, "Through the Eyes of a Golf Ball"
 - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School


Nash Marez, "Adventure to Milkdud" - Grand Junction, Holy Family Catholic School 
Gillian Palazzini, 
"Through the Eyes of the Insane" - Merino, Home Schooled 
Clarice Reiner, 
"The Song of a Second" - Arvada, Oberon Middle School 
Britney Sarazen, "
Bullied to Bully" - Fort Lupton, Quest Academy 
Sydney Taylor,
 "Xanthe Soto, Girl Genius: Wind Power" - Denver, Homeschooled

8th Grade
1st - Erin Mallory, "Tricking the Sheep" - Windsor, Saint Joseph's Catholic School
2nd - McKinley Mueller, "Seven Days 'Til Heaven" - Ridgway, Ridgway Secondary School
3rd - Sydney Lewark, "Flying" - Denver, Denver Waldorf School

Kinsey Brashears, "Elena Smith" - Fort Morgan, Fort Morgan Middle School
Torryn Elliot
, "The Adventures of Cedric" - Granby, East Grand Middle School
Abigail Weeks
, "Simplicity" - Centennial, West Middle School
Claire Wineman
, "The Conversion" - Denver, Denver School of the Arts
Margaux Woellner
, "The Maligned Hedgehog" - Englewood, West Middle School

Parent Testimonial

"I wanted to thank you for the Rocky Mountain PBS StoryMakers program. My daughter took part in the competition and was a runner up for the 8th grade group. The whole process was so thrilling for her to be part of. When we were at the studio for the celebration in January, she told us she felt like a movie star. She loved learning to record her story and download illustrations, but most of all I think she loved the fact that so many people were involved in the whole process, and that most were involved through volunteering. 

She was so inspired... Our children need to feel important in order to succeed, and every small step counts. This support needs to be more than just parents and teachers. When our children see other adults and important people involved in their futures, it paints a bigger picture for them. Thank you for painting part of this bigger picture." 

-The Bretts, Eaton, Co.

Rocky Mountain PBS and CenturyLink encourage teenagers to keep reading and writing.  

Thanks to everyone submitting a story and special thanks to our major sponsor, CenturyLink.

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