Where people come to look for freedom and happiness."
Those are the opening lines from a winning poem by Illinois fifth grader and champion gymnast Alexander Tymouch. The poem took the top spot in the 2012 American Immigration Council's annual "Celebrate America" fifth grade creative writing contest
Alexander's poem, "America, The Magical Land," traces history from immigrant arrival to learning to becoming friends and creating a new nation. His entry was selected from among thousands that poured in from across the country. Last year's winner, Maya Young Wong, was from Altadena, California.
The fifth grader of Ukrainian descent takes Ukrainian lessons in school, sings in the Ukrainian choir and serves as an altar boy at the local Ukrainian Cathedral where he lives in Chicago. he is also a member of the American Ukrainian Youth Association.
In addition to writing poetry, Tymouch he has been named Illinois State Champion in gymnastics two years in a row.
Second place was awarded to Nakita Ranjit Nair of Texas and Emma Snavely of Washington. Honorable mention was given to Aedra Li of San Francisco and Samantha Nelson of Missouri. Each chapter of the organization submitted a winner to be judged nationally. The Southern California winner was Richard Medina.
Judges included: New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes, philanthropists Jan and Marica Vilcek, author Peter Coan, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Gerda Weissman Klein.
The winner and two guests will go to the Council's annual benefit dinner where Alexander will read his poem.