Student weaves winning tale

MIDDLEBURY — Seven-year-old Joshua Kafumbe of Middlebury wants to be a policeman when he gets older.
But the incoming second-grader at Mary Hogan Elementary School might also consider a career in writing, given his performance in the most recent national Public Broadcasting System’s KIDS Writers Contest.
Joshua took third place in the Grade 1 category for his illustrated story, “The Colors I Feel.” He was one of 12 winners in the grades K-3 competition that drew thousands of entries from children throughout the country. The submissions came through 62 participating PBS stations, with judging completed by an honorary panel comprised of leading children’s writers, producers and media creators, such as Jeff McKinney, Bob Staake, Vince Vawter and others.
Joshua wrote his story early this past spring after seeing the contest advertised on PBS. At the time he was 6 years old and in Jim Trybus’s first grade class at Mary Hogan School.
“It took him close to a week,” Joshua’s mom, Betty Kafumbe, said of the project. “The process was spread out.”
Verily, Joshua Kafumbe found the right theme for his story, as he has always been fascinated with colors. His favorite color is purple, but he hastened to add in an interview on Tuesday that he likes “all the colors of the world.”
Joshua developed lists of colors and feelings. He then matched those colors to specific feelings that he relates to those colors. His complete story can be viewed at http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/read-stories/stories/the-colors-i-feel. Here’s an except:
“I see colors every day, but sometimes I feel them too. I feel yellow like a dandelion when I am happy. I feel red like molten lava when I am angry. When I am sad, I feel blue like a doctor’s surgery gown. When I am excited I feel orange like a tangerine.”
Damascus and Betty Kafumbe encouraged their son in the project but did not assist him in the actual writing, per the contest rules. Damascus Kafumbe is an assistant professor of music at Middlebury College. The family is originally from Uganda. They have lived in Middlebury since 2011. Joshua has a younger brother named Jonathan, who is 5 years old and will be going into first grade at the Mary Hogan School this fall.
Damascus and Betty Kafumbe are proud of Joshua’s performance in the contest. He won a Kindle, a pen and some other prizes in an initial Vermont round of the contest. He has not yet been informed of what prizes will come his way for his third-place finish in the nationals. The slate of rewards includes e-readers, books, maps and more, according to a national PBS press release.
“Seeing (Joshua) spending time matching a feeling to a certain color was fascinating,” Damascus Kafumbe said.
“I came up with the title and the topics I feel,” Joshua said.
Joshua is now planning to write a story about cars. He’d also like to write a chapter book about the contrasts of black and white. He is also a devotee of the Harry Potter book series.
The PBS KIDS Writers Contest is an initiative designed to promote the advancement of children’s reading skills through hands-on, active learning.
The other winning entries in the Grade 1 category were “Once Upon a Pencil” by Ethan Mattocks of Guys Mills, Pa., (first place), and  “A Survival Guide to South Dakota” by Samuel Ellenbecker, Cascade, Wis. (second place).
“We were thrilled to see another impressive batch of submissions for the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest,” Lesli Rotenberg, general manager of Children’s Programming at PBS, said through a press release. “PBS KIDS and our local stations always enjoy encouraging children to use their imaginations to create memorable stories. We look forward to supporting the next generation of creative thinkers as they develop important writing skills that will lay the foundation of success in both school and life.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
BETTY AND DAMASCUS Kafumbe and their younger son, Jonathan, second from right, said they are proud of 7-year-old Joshua. Joshua’s story “The Colors I Feel” recently took third place in the 2014 National PBS KIDS Writers Contest.   Independent photo/Andrea Warren

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