Spearfish student’s story recognized as ‘Red Ribbon Favorite’ by PBS

May 16, 2019 GMT

SPEARFISH — “Ethiopia to America” is the story Rediet Peterson, Spearfish third-grader, wrote for an assignment in second-grade. Her book tells the story of when she was adopted and her memories of flying to the United States, and the story, entered in the Prairie Public PBS Writers Contest, was chosen this month as a third-grade “Red Ribbon Favorite.”

“I wanted to write my story before I forgot it,” Peterson said, describing that the book highlights the things she remembers about Ethiopia and about her adoption. It includes illustrations by Peterson, as well as photographs from Ethiopia and her journey to the U.S. She describes her life in Ethiopia from her chores, to animals she saw, to her school, etc.


“I was born in Ethiopia,” the story begins.

Peterson was adopted on Dec. 10, 2014, by Tylee and Jim Peterson, and she writes in the book, “When I was five I came to America. It was a little bit scary but I felt safe because I was with my brother (named Yo). … I love my new family and I’m happy that I’m here!”

Tricia Gainey, Peterson’s second-grade teacher at West Elementary, described that the book project is a culminating year-end writing activity for students.

“The students take what they have learned throughout our writing workshop time and write a personal narrative or add to a story they have already started,” she said.

Gainey explained that she is a South Dakota Public Broadcasting listener and had heard about the Prairie Public PBS Writers Contest that way. Students from kindergarten through third-grade can write and illustrate their own stories for submission to the contest, and children in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, and Manitoba are eligible to win.

“This is the first time I’ve entered a student’s work, but hopefully not the last,” she said, adding, “Rediet’s story is special! She is truly an amazing girl who has a fascinating story to tell. I had the chance to read her story to my current students, and they were wowed!”

Peterson said she was excited and happy when she learned her story was named a “Red Ribbon Favorite.”

“I didn’t think I would win because I thought there would be a lot of other books that would be better than mine,” she said, adding that she is proud of herself and advised other students to always try their best.

“You might win, or you might not win, but you tried your best,” she said. “When I wrote my book, I didn’t know about a contest. I was writing the book for myself and for other people to hear my story.”


Gainey said she couldn’t be prouder of Peterson.

“Rediet definitely deserves the recognition,” she said. “She has had to work extremely hard to learn a new language and fit into a new environment. Her family has done a fantastic job, her teachers have all done a great job, but she has worked harder than anybody to make this happen.”

Gainey added that the recognition gave Peteson confidence in her abilities as an author.

“I think recognition drives students to be better in all academic areas,” she said.

“These types of personal accounts show how our nation is truly the land of opportunity,” Gainey added. “It makes me wonder how many places in the world make it possible for Rediet’s story to end this way. My guess is that is a fairly small number. It makes me proud to be an American, proud to be from Spearfish, and especially proud to be a teacher.”

In her “About the Author” section of the book, Peterson describes that she likes to read the Magic Tree House books and play with American dolls. Her favorite sport is gymnastics, and she also enjoys playing with friends. In addition to her parents and brother, she has two dogs named Jazz and Kongo.

Peterson said that she is thankful to Gainey for encouraging her to write the story and for entering it in the contest.

“I have been blessed with four amazing teachers and others who have been sweet and nice and encourage me to do hard things,” she said.

“Ethiopia to America” is available to read by clicking on the title at prairiepublic.org/community/pbs-kids-writers-contest/.

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