Sullivan County fifth-grader wins Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest
New York competition part of national contest to raise awareness, educate the public
There’s powerful symbolism in Mia Larizzati’s poster to raise awareness for the plight of missing children.
The talented 10-year-old artist from Livingston Manor in Sullivan County drew a bald eagle soaring through the sky. Inside a basket clutched in its talons lies a missing child swaddled in a blanket, next to arrows and an olive branch – symbols of war and peace. On a hillside in the distance stands home, where two parents eagerly await their child’s safe return.
“I hope that this poster will warm people’s hearts,” she wrote in a short description of her poster.
Mia’s creation was selected from about 20 posters submitted to the New York State Missing Persons Clearinghouse. Located at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Clearinghouse coordinated a state contest that was part of the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, the annual national contest is open to fifth graders and is designed to raise awareness about missing children cases across the country.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green, New York State Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin and Johanna Sullivan, director of the DCJS Office of Public Safety, served as judges. They rated the entries on a variety of criteria but ultimately needed to decide which best represented the overarching theme of the contest: “Bring Our Missing Children Home.” The contest required fifth-graders to include those words in their designs as well.
For taking first place, Mia competed against entries from around the country in an effort to promote National Missing Children’s Day, which is observed annually on May 25. The date marks the solemn anniversary of the day 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished in New York City in 1979. His disappearance gained wide publicity and created a groundswell of attention to the plight of missing children. The federal Justice Department will announce the national contest winner later this month.
For taking first place in New York’s contest, Mia received a $100 Amazon gift card. The judges also named a second and third place winners in New York’s contest; they received a $50 gift card and a $25 gift card to Amazon, respectively.
- Second place: Gaelle Mezier, 11, of Westbury, Nassau County, who drew a poster depicting a little girl kidnapped from a playground while her parents weren’t looking.
- Third place: Wesley Nagel, 11, of Webster, Monroe County, whose poster featured baby footprints and a startling factoid: An estimated average of 2,200 children go missing daily across the country.
The Missing Persons Clearinghouse at DCJS assists law enforcement agencies by providing training, case management guidance and investigative support, such as publicizing missing children cases. It also administers the state’s Missing Child Alerts, which are activated when a case involving a missing child under the age of 21 doesn’t meet AMBER Alert criteria.
The New York State Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) provides a safety net for innocent crime victims and family members who have no other place to turn for help, providing compensation for counseling, advocacy services and medical care, among other assistance. It also a network of more than 200 victim assistance programs across the state.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.