Saratoga Teen Wins National Poetry Contest

For Immediate Release
April 3, 2017

Aashna Belenje, Age 14, Wins for "Smile"

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. –April 3, 2017 – Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) is pleased to announce Aashna Belenje, a local teenager from Saratoga, California, and eighth grade student at Redwood Middle School, as one of five teens picked nationwide as a winner of the prestigious Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) teen poetry contest. Out of all entries submitted, only thirty qualified to be included in the national contest. Two American poet laureates: Peter Meinke and Alice B. Fogel, were selected to judge this year’s poems.  

Described as “both devastating and sweet” by Fogel, and “a touching little narrative,” by Meinke, Belenje’s winning entry “Smile,” was selected for its poignant description recounting the lonely life of a young student. As a national winner, Belenje will receive $20 and her poem published in the April issue of VOYA magazine. 

Aashna’s winning entry: “Smile”

The same routine every day:
She dreaded those smirking faces,
Worried what they thought of her,
Knew they branded her Weirdo! 

Classmates gave her scars inside
To remind her of all her flaws;
They could barely endure her,
And she lived trembling near them.

All she ached for was a smile:
Her hurt heart hoped for a smiling face,
Just one face that didn't petrify her,
One smile to save her from herself.

Returning home, sitting alone
On the school bus again, she gazed
At the driving rain outside the glass
And shivered at her inner cold,

Until the chill left her as someone,
For the first time, sat down next to her;
For the first time, she heard, Hi Mia!
And turned to him to see his smile.


Aashna Belenje
Redwood Middle School
Grade: 8

In conjunction with April’s National Poetry Month, SCCLD is now accepting entries for the 2017 Teen Poetry Contest. One winner from each library will be chosen in the following categories: Grades 6-8 (middle school) and Grades 9-12 (high school). Applicants may submit up to three original poems no longer than 30 lines. For a complete listing of contest rules, visit  Last day to submit entries is April 30, 2017. Winners will receive a $50 gift card and will be entered into VOYA’s 2017 National Teen Poetry Contest.

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About the Santa Clara County Library District


The Santa Clara County Library District (SCCLD) promotes knowledge, ideas, and cultural enrichment. Its collection includes more than 1.9 million books, videos, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, eBooks and extensive online resources accessible from home or work.

In 2014, SCCLD celebrated one hundred years of service to local residents. For the last several years, SCCLD has been consistently recognized as one of America’s Star Libraries by Library Journal. In 2016, SCCLD was ranked among the top ten large libraries in the United States in the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service. In 2014 and 2015, SCCLD won Innovator Awards from the Urban Libraries Council.

The Santa Clara County Library District includes two bookmobiles, an online library, seven community libraries and one branch library serving Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. In 2016, the Santa Clara County Library District had more than 270,000 library cardholders and welcomed 3.3 million visitors who borrowed 9.1 million items. 

Nancy Howe/Chris Brown /Lili Smith
Santa Clara County Library District
(408) 293-2326 ext. 3001/3002/3014