The student: Kiran Harding, 13
School: Clarksville Middle
Special achievement: First-place winner in the Young Authors writing contest sponsored by the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council for his poem "The River of Faith," which explores issues of multiculturalism, religion and world peace.
His inspiration: Reading a newspaper article about Pope John Paul II's visit to Israel in March 2000, Kiran says, he became fascinated with the idea of religions being at odds with one another in the Holy Land. "The basic concept of religion is about tolerance, really," Kiran says. "It's ironic that they're fighting against one another when all religions are so similar. We have to develop religious tolerance and respect of other cultures and celebrate diversity if we're going to have peace."
Family influences: Kiran's parents, Seema and David Harding, work for the United Nations. Kiran's mother was born in India. His father was born in England. The family has lived in Africa, India and Burma. Kiran says their experiences abroad influenced his interest in multicultural issues.
His favorite poets: Kiran says he prefers the works of e.e. cummings and Shakespeare. "I like the way cummings combines words and his originality," Kiran says. "I enjoy the way Shakespeare uses words and plays with them to bring across the meaning."