Monthly Archives: April 2024

The World of Table Tennis

The World of Table Tennis

By Viraj Ajgaonkar, age 10, grade 6, Mumbai, India

A strategic game with swift moves
that is played between ones or twos.
To compete in singles or doubles,
is what you need to choose.

Played atop on a mini-playground,
with net across the middle.
Holding a racquet in hand,
you simply hit the ball or fiddle.

There is no room for foul
let the game be fair,
Otherwise, you will be warned
by the referee in chair.

Quite popular by the
name ping pong,
It is every boyhood dream to play
as good as Ma Long.

A long way to learn Lebrun’s
signature style of pen-hold,
If one follows a right technique,
am sure you’ll win a gold.

It is rather difficult to play on
Bobrow’s snake serve,
Be as wise as not to hit hard, just roll
and maintain pure nerve.

Some learn forehand while
others backhand faster,
But you have to be competent
in both to be a game master.

Improved footwork and drill
enhances agility,
Rigorous practice
improves overall ability.

With more and more matches,
you learn to tackle your opponent,
And for a game of table tennis
this forms an essential component.

Advancing from an amateur to
professional level drills,
Day by day you learn
better and better skills.

The ranking of the players time to time
switches up-and-down,
You never know one fine day, you will
receive the winner’s crown.

The game demands focus, patience
and cool temperament,
To play in the event to the
spectator’s amazement.

With hours of daily practice and a stroke of luck
you may find a place in the finals
Rejoicing the moments of triumph
by winning glistening medals!

          By Viraj Ajgaonkar, age 10, grade 6, Mumbai, India. He adds:
”Being a sports-enthusiast and an intermediate level table tennis player, I have tried to pen down the nitty-gritty of this racquet game in this poem using ‘simile’ as one of the figures of speech while comparing the playing surface with a mini-playground! I also like to share the experiences that I have had while playing in different level tournaments and the essential requisites with the special mention of the ‘GOATS’ (Greatest player of all times—China’s Ma Long, France’s Alex Lebrun, and Adam Bobrow, American table tennis commentator whom I greatly adore) through this poem. As a matter of fact, I do have a strong bonding, a feeling of camaraderie with my duo (my racquet-ping pong balls) and one can’t deny the fact that a sport teaches you significant skills and life values even at a very early age!
“I like to venture into varied activities and learn associated skills, which I feel is a life-long process. I envision myself to be a world-class table tennis player and grow up to be a sports coach or may pursue sports medicine! I wish to transform my passion into an initiative that would strengthen the feeling of ‘Love Sports’ in the minds of youngsters or rather every common individual.

”I also do a lot of sketching of famous personalities and exhibit interest in playing musical instruments like tabla and keyboard. I have drawn a sketch of Neymar da Silva santos Jr, a Brazilian professional soccer player as he is a great role model for young athletes. He is humble and gives 100% on the field. He posts funny videos of himself on social media and I relate myself to him as he is hyperactive and playful.”

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr, a Brazilian professional soccer player. Sketch by Viraj Ajgaonkar, age 10, India.

Celebrating Earth Day!

Celebrating Earth Day!

Hugging an Evergreen Tree on a hike in Central Oregon. Photo: Mel Bankoff, Oregon.

Earth Day Greetings!

As I bicycled to work this cool, breezy spring morning in the Pacific Northwest, I admired the many new shoots reaching for the sun, and spring flowers seeking bees and other insects along the bike trail and sidewalks. I vividly recalled my childhood in central India. We lived in an apartment building right in the middle of downtown in the city of Indore. There was no room for any backyard gardens. But we had a very small windowsill garden space for a couple of pots. I remember the excitement I felt as the garbanzo bean plants grew new leaves or when those beautiful red flowers appeared on another potted plant.

Almost Everything in the Garden is Growing Vibrantly.  Photo: Arun N. Toké

We have been enjoying spring flowers in our garden, and harvesting arugula, fennel shoots, green onions, etc. Apple trees and various berries are doing their usual spring growth with a promise of bountiful fruit harvest! And, various nature hikes in the area fill our hearts with a sense of appreciation and gratitude to Mother Nature.

While many of us might be looking forward to visiting some special wonders of nature during school break this year—Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Titon, Redwoods or another beautiful place—like the Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, let us not forget that natural beauty can be found all around us, even in our backyard!

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. Photo: Arianna Shaprow, age 13, Nevada.

Yet, I must share my deep sadness with you. Everyday, I am feeling the pain of countless children, mothers and fathers in places like the Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, where wars, climate change and droughts make living conditions dire for tens of millions. The military operations and environmental destruction responsible for human suffering go on unabated. Governments, including ours, are unresponsive to the needs of innocent, civilian victims. The human rights of millions of children, women and men are being violated. They are forced to live in subhuman conditions. Even in our own cities all across this so-called rich nation, countless homeless men and women live in less than desirable conditions. We are told there is no money for social programs, as the government spends close to a trillion dollars on feeding the war machines.

Skipping Stones, like any other socially responsible media outlet, has often shed light on the plight of suffering humanity around the world. While we don’t want to forget this pain and suffering, we also don’t want our readers to get depressed by the doom and gloom that’s all around us.

The list of issues we can and must face is long. It includes our ever-increasing use of plastics and forever-chemicals, the decimation of insect and bird populations, the climate change, disappearing glaciers, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats, over-fishing and overgrazing, mindless mining of fossil fuels, environmental pollution, groundwater contamination, land-use issues, nuclear weapons, environmental and social justice, and homelessness, poverty and hunger. You can add many more items to this list—both of local concern and global importance!

Our future survival and flourishing depends on how we respond to these problems we have created with our ever-increasing consumption of resources, economic systems, greed, privatization and exploitation of resources, for example.

You might like to ask yourself a few deep questions (see some examples below) and try to answer them honestly and at length:

What do we love about where we live?
How can we make a difference right where we are planted, in our communities?
How can we let Mother Earth know how much we love her?
What might we cultivate in our own backyard?
How can we help out our neighbors?
What small thing might we do today to heal the world and ourselves?
What is happiness?
What makes us really happy—happiness that might last for a really long while?
How much of material consumption is sufficient or plenty for our happiness?
What is the law of diminishing returns?
What is the difference between needs and wants?

And as a group of friends or community, we might ask:

Can an economy based on ever-increasing growth be sustained? 
Can we continue to use natural resources in an uncontrolled manner?
What can we as a community or society do to minimize our negative impact on nature?
As conscientious citizen and human beings, how can we respond constructively?

A Roadside Plant on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké.

Let us not abuse the gifts we have been granted by Mother Nature. Let us not knowingly degrade or destroy the very web of life of which we are an integral part. Human life cannot continue without this web of life—our biosphere. As “intelligent” species, we must address these issues that we have created collectively since industrialization.

Let us make an effort to appreciate the beauty around us, as we work to address these adversities. Let’s respect the many miracles of nature that surround us. Let us learn to enjoy even the smallest gifts that we receive everyday, be it listening to a bird song, fluttering of a butterfly or hummingbird, observing a cluster of green leaves or the multitude of seeds and fruits that plants produce.

Let us be grateful for the many blessings we have been granted. Let us live fully and let nature live—in all its glory! Let us commit ourselves to doing what we can to sustain these blessings, this beauty, for all future generations.

A Banyan Tree on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké

Dear fellow earthlings, let’s remember that Earth Day is not just April 22nd; we can observe it each and every day.

—Arun Narayan Toké, Skipping Stones editor.

Name the Past for Our Future 

Name the Past for Our Future:

On the Armenian Genocide

By Laurel Aronian, age 17, Connecticut.

In 1915, the Armenian Genocide commenced—the systematic mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman government. I wrote this poem as a representation of the ongoing effects of the genocide on Armenians; even survivors found their lives uprooted as they were forced to move to other countries and begin from nothing. This poem not only serves to comment on my ancestors’ abrupt relocation from their homeland but also as a reflection on how my opportunity to visit Armenia in 2019 allowed me to return to the place my ancestors unwillingly left behind—metaphorically restoring them to their native land and simultaneously instilling in me an appreciation for a culture and history that I will carry forward. 

“The Land Ahead”

Soot swirls around our footsteps,
the dust from our lives before.
Before, when we lived in the stony 
cliffs of the Caucasus.

With my family who sent me
on my own.
To start a new life.
A life away from those who had taken 
it from us.

The land that my family had lived 
on for hundreds of years was seized.
Bitlis, Diyarbekir, Erzurum, where I had
played in the long grass of the mountains with my brothers.

Luck is what saved me from the massacres.
I do not know 
what happened to my brothers,
who I had left
behind me.

The rocky road ahead is also littered
with dust.
It obscures my vision on all sides. 
I do not know what is ahead of me
or what I have left behind.

The smell of gasoline is strong
as I board the plane. 
I have left my home for the flight,
but will return in a jet 
moving as swift as an Eagle.

The sign above is in letters
I can’t read
Թռիչք դեպի Հայաստան տերմինալ 4A
Only one word is clear to me,
Հայաստան, Hayastan, where my 
second great-grandfather is from 
and where I 
am going.

Back in his day, 
there were no planes,
when he traveled to the US

Did he know that his 
great, great-granddaughter would be going to his homeland?
His homeland where he had to leave
his home.

He left his country in the hope
that one day 
the part of him in me 
could return.

By Laurel Aronian, age 17, Connecticut. She adds: “I love to write in all genres (poetry, prose, journalism). I also enjoy taking photos and creating art. I have a passion for music and perform as a singer-songwriter and accompany on guitar. When I’m not writing or making music, I play competitive chess. My pieces also reflect the awe of nature, earth stewardship, and our planet’s majesty and magic.”

PS: Laurel entered the poem for our 2023 Youth Honor Awards last year at the age of 16.

Art in the Time of War: The Children of Zaporizhzhia

Art in the Time of War:  The Children of Zaporizhzhia

By Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, President, Sister’s Sister, Inc.

“Zaporizhzhia” by Yuriy Martynov, age 13, Ukraine.

The unprovoked, brutal war against Ukraine sadly has entered its third year. It has brought much destruction and sorrow to the people of Ukraine. Millions were displaced internally. Millions became refugees elsewhere in the world. Countless Ukrainian children have lost their homes, have difficulties in accessing education, health care and even basic necessities such as drinking water. Bomb shelters and cellars have replaced their rooms, metro benches have become their beds, and air raid sirens on a daily basis drone instead of school bells. While many Ukrainian men and women actively fight on the battlefield for their country, culture and independence, others stay dedicated to the children who remain in Ukraine.

The Central Southern city of Zaporizhzhia is under constant artillery shelling and aerial bombing. But the Center for Children’s and Youth Creativity in the city continues to operate, and attempts to create a safe space to safeguard the children’s childhood. The Gradient creative Computer Design Circle at the Center has not closed its doors even when its teacher Ms. Nadiya Chepiga was forced to flee Ukraine to Poland in the first months of heavy enemy assaults on the city. Ms. Chepiga then continued to work with her students online for the entire year before returning back to her home city and to her students.

The Gradient Circle is now in its thirteenth year of operation. Hundreds of children between the ages of 6 and 17 have learned to create beautiful art there and connect with their inner spirit, bringing them one step closer to becoming professional graphic designers and artists. The Circle creates a comfortable environment for shaping children’s creative abilities, meeting their individual needs for intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and creative development, shaping a culture that includes a healthy lifestyle and organizing their free time. The children learn the principles of drawing art objects, creating drawings and 3D images, acquiring skills in making artwork in various media and styles, learning the basics of graphic design, creating postcards, posters, calendars, and memorabilia. The children search for their individual style of work and aesthetic preferences, develop their creative imagination and fantasy, learn to take creative initiative, and develop their independence.

The Circle’s founding director and teacher Nadiya Chepiga is a creative artist herself, who has implemented numerous creative projects with her students, has helped them realize their creative vision and brought them to life, and trained hundreds of creative individuals. Despite the ongoing war, the students and their teacher continue participating in various nationwide Ukrainian and International competitions as well as in art exhibitions.

Life goes on even in the extremely challenging circumstances created by the war. The students and their teacher continue meeting twice per week. Frequently, instruction needs to be done online because of constant air raid warnings. But on Sundays, the students try to meet with their teacher in person in the Center. And if an air raid siren goes off, they seek cover in the basement (see below) or in corridors where they continue their lessons. Since the enemy missiles and bombs focus on destroying power plants, there is usually no heat, and the students wear winter coats and jackets during their lessons. Yet they enjoy their meetings and continue creating beautiful, original works of art.

Gradient Students Continue with their Art Classes in the Institute’s Basement.

Fifteen of their art creations were exhibited by the humanitarian aid organization Sister’s Sister ( in State College, Pennsylvania on March 23, 2024 during a benefit concert for Ukraine. Sister’s Sister provides humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people, particularly to children, hospitals, orphanages, and the disabled in Ukraine, including State College’s sister city, Nizhyn, located in the Chernihiv region. The artwork exhibited at the concert was created by the students and enhanced with computer graphics under the supervision and guidance of their teacher. Their work draws, in part, on Ukrainian art, famous for its folk traditions and exquisite embroidery, the red and black threads of which represent happiness and sorrow. Sadly, there is too much of the black threads of sorrow in these difficult times for the children of Ukraine, while Nadiya Chepiga, whose first name means “hope,” brings hope to the children of Zaporizhzhia through art. For more information, please visit the websites linked to the QR codes below:

The children’s creativity will continue to be realized despite the nearly impossible conditions and their spirit will remain indominable!




By Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, Ph.D., President, Sister’s Sister, Inc. (

Hummingbird by Artem Lopatyn, age 10.

“Mystery” by Yeva Pavrianidis, age 10

“Free” by Zlata Khalayim, age 10.

“Music Inspires” by Vyacheslav Sukhanov, age 14.

“Autumn” by Oleksandra Patoka, age 9.

“Thoughts” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“I Am Ukraine” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 15. The central figure in color is represented by a traditional Ukrainian embroidery against a large city background. The Ukrainian text above says: CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (left corner), and in the right corner, Article 30. A child has the right to enjoy his or her own culture.”

“Zaporizhzhian Oak Tree” by Edik Boitsev, age 13.

“Lord of the Forest” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“Ukraine, the Bountiful” by Kateryna Yuhayeva, age 14.

“Ukraine Right Now” by Polina Pustovit, age 17.

“The City in Your Head” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“Unity” by Polina Zakharova, age 12. The poster says: “The Responsibility Starts with Me.”

“Lviv” by Oleksandra Chepiha, age 12.

“Ocean Dweller” by Artem Panov, age 13.

“Mars” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.


“Ukrainian Village” by Danylo Usenko, age 12.

“Hare” by Oleksandra Vasyliyeva, age 10.

“Kitty” by Diana Kardinal, age 9.




by Surabhi Verma, grade 11, California


female leader

peaceful change

violence eliminated

full equality

impossible, impossible.

its repetition,
bewilders me.

its presence,
bothers me.

its truth,
baffles me.

                  i    m    p o s s i b l e
                                                      i am Possible

Surabhi Verma, grade 11, California. She writes:

“I enjoy writing poetry and non-fiction and use writing as a form of expression and reflection. I have won several awards… and am a STEM blog writer for STEMpathize. When I’m not writing, I love playing the flute and spending time with my family and friends.

“I come from an Indian background and speak both English and Hindi. Though living in America, I find myself deeply connected to my Indian roots and culture, celebrating every Indian festival, going to the temple, and enjoying a variety of Indian dishes. My favorite part of an Indian event is that it gives an excuse to wear a lehenga!

“I am passionate about the flute, writing, and mental health. In the future, I hope to make an impact in the field of biomedical research while also being able to pursue my passions through providing affordable flute lessons, continuing to write, and taking part in advocating for mental health by creating more support programs.

”My poems are influenced by my experiences and cover a variety of topics, ranging from identity struggles and personal feelings to altering perspectives and the relationship between music and peace against violence.”

Watercolor Paintings by Chloe Onorato

Watercolor Paintings

By Chloe Onorato, American University, D.C.
When Chloe won the 2017 Skipping Stones Youth Honor Award for Hope Cards (stationery she designs and sells to benefit children in need in the U.S. and developing world), she realized that young people can be a force for good and make a positive impact on the world. Since winning the award, Chloe has graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in Honors Creative Writing and minored in Studio Art. She is now earning an MFA from the American University in D.C.
After taking a class on watercolor painting, Chloe fell in love with the delicate, expressive medium. Her admiration of nature in repose and the serenity of untouched winter landscapes led to her study of snowscapes near her Midwestern campus. Her bird watercolors were inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” which resonated deeply with her during the COVID pandemic years. Chloe believes nature provides boundless inspiration for artists and writers alike.

Snowy  Path” This artwork was also published last spring in Re:Visions, one of Notre Dame’s literary magazines.

“A Male Cardinal”

“Eastern Bluebird”

“Frozen Field in the Midwest”

“Snowy Shores” Watercolor artist Chloe Onorato is a graduate student at the American University in D.C.

Memories of a Guava Tree

Memories of a Guava Tree

By Dawson Yee, age 13, grade 7, California.

My grandmother’s hands reach for my face
Feeling to be sure I am the child she remembers
Her mind has only enough space
for past Decembers.

My mother, father, and aunt turn in surprise
Her knotted hands grip my shoulders in recognition
With a teasing crinkle in her eyes
she calls my name, an intermission

Three years ago, she gave me a white guava seedling
With hardy red stems and elliptical leaves
She explained what it was needing
Learned from years of shielding it from disease.

Afterwards, she ushered me into the guest room, where she unearthed treasure:
An embroidered Japanese trinket box, a logic puzzle, an old plush toy
Her smiling eyes watched my curiosity with pleasure
As she entered the absurdly colorful world of a little boy.

But now we sit together watching nature shows
And she is like a sailor disappearing into a storm.
I can see her boat sinking but I’m not sure she knows
she’s lost her tiller and our roles will transform.

A logger chopping a tree flashes on the screen
She worries for the animals inside, knowing they are doomed.
I reach over her frail figure and push the remote to intervene
I tell her that our guava has finally bloomed.

—Dawson Yee, age 13, grade 7, California. Dawson writes:

“I see creative writing as a puzzle of wisdom. I’m 13 years old and in 7th grade but take high school English and philosophy at a local independent school. 

“I’ve also adored challenging myself to understand the symbolism behind not only prose such as in magical realism, but also the figurative language in poetry. When I recently analyzed “Boy and Egg” by Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, I found that searching for evidence of Nye’s purposeful line breaks and sound devices to convince a reader she was contrasting the innocence of a childhood immersed in nature versus the chaotic world to be beyond satisfying as a puzzle to solve. 

“I use my heritage as a third-generation Asian American to inform my writing, as it is an important part of how I view the world. I also write with an eye to health, both physical and mental, as I personally have several life-threatening allergies as well as Mass Cell Activation Syndrome, which shape my view of the world. My maternal grandmother, who recently passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, provided the basis for my poem “Memories of a Guava Tree.” In addition, I am influenced by my parents’ experiences as second-generation Americans growing up in predominantly non-Asian rural and inner-city U.S. communities and by my grandparents’ stories of the immigrant experience and their childhoods wrenched by memories of war and poverty. 

“I’m also an Event Coordinator for an online, international Asian American youth writers’ collective, Asian Youth Writers Alliance ( In the writing groups that I’ve found surrounding these events and projects, where my classmates and fellow writers are insightful and tactful, I feel I have the space to put the puzzle of wisdom together. I would love to connect with a multicultural and global community of young writers who share the same values as these online initiatives. In finding literary magazines like Skipping Stones to share my writing, I realize more and more that I’m truly searching for the exact kind of wisdom and togetherness it provides.”

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action Was Never Enough

By Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, New York.

When affirmative action was struck down, the New York Times interviewed a bunch of high school students. Connor, from St. Peter High School in Minnesota, said, “I like the idea of having diverse campuses but not at the expense of hard work. I think that everyone is equal so everyone should be treated equally and given the same opportunities. I believe that colleges should look more at the hard work put in by the students than at race.”

I don’t completely disagree or agree with Connor. I agree that everyone should be treated the same way and given the same opportunities, and that colleges should reward hard work. But not everyone gets the same opportunities, which diminishes diversity on campuses. Black students often attend poorly-equipped elementary, middle or high schools. This causes Black students who need help to not get any, which makes it more difficult for them to get into elite colleges. The question is, what should we do to change this for the better? Affirmative action was a controversial solution, but it did help marginalized students have a better chance at getting into good colleges, and on June 29, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court ended it.

Affirmative action tried to help historically marginalized groups have better chances at getting into good colleges. According to NPR (National Public Radio), when the Supreme Court ended affirmative action, it ended “…the ability of colleges and universities—public and private—to do what most say they needed to do: consider race as one of the many factors in deciding which of the qualified applicants should be admitted.” Unfortunately, lots of people thought that students with lower scores would get into schools over students with higher scores. But, the truth is, if two students had the same SAT scores and the same quality for their essay, affirmative action let colleges pick the student from a marginalized group.

A student named Hamid from Glenbard West High School in Illinois said, affirmative action “…is not picking a minority student over a white student simply on the basis of race. Affirmative action literally means “the practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination, over similarly qualified non-minority individuals.” The idea wasn’t to disadvantage privileged kids, but help less privileged ones. This was important because it would start a chain reaction, allowing less wealthy students to get better jobs, which would also help their kids do better, and their kid’s kids do better because they would have more opportunities.

Ending Affirmative action was a controversial decision. NPR  said, “Indeed, the reality is that in those places where affirmative action has been eliminated, there has been a severe drop in minority, and particularly, African American, admissions.” In its job of increasing diversity at schools, it worked. Affirmative action let more minorities into colleges. But even with it, there was still a severe wealth gap in marginalized groups. Without it, the wealth gap will grow again. Speaking to the NY Times, Amalia, a student at RFHS in Colorado, said, “Increasing diversity in schools, jobs, and major positions of power starts in colleges. So we need to include race in college applications.” We need more diversity among powerful people. We can’t have a congress that only has white and/or rich people in it. While Amalia is right, we also need to consider education at every level. It helps to get into a good college if you go to a good high school; it helps to get into a good high school if you go to a good middle school; it helps to get into a good middle school if you go to a good elementary school; it helps to get into a good elementary school if you go to a good preschool. It’s important to have access to quality education at every stage. Even when you’re really young.

To help students from marginalized groups access higher education we need more than just affirmative action. Tobz, of Baker High School said, “Now, of course, ideally, we wouldn’t need affirmative action. It probably isn’t even that effective at curbing racial biases and inequalities due to how limited its application would be. But it’s not a negative for anyone, and it has a reasonable and logical justification for existing.” While affirmative action is helpful, it isn’t going to change everything. We need more than that. To do well in school, you need accessible teachers, healthcare, a supportive family, food, and a home. Snacks, living close to school, having someone at home to help you, and extra curricular activities are all also very helpful. The government should make sure everyone has what they need to have a good education.

Contrary to what Connor believes, diversity isn’t just going to happen. There are too many things working against people from marginalized groups. For a while, some members of historically marginalized groups had better chances of getting into colleges because of affirmative action. That’s why the Supreme Court’s decision to end it was highly controversial. The truth is, affirmative action was a step in the right direction, but it was not enough. Now that it’s gone, we need to share our resources much more equitably so that everyone has access to a good education.

—Alexandra de Graeve, age 13, grade 7, New York. “I live in New York City but both my parents come from Europe. I speak English and Dutch, and I am taking French and Latin at my school. I don’t know what I want to be when I’m older, but I want math to be a part of it. I was annoyed at my English teacher for talking about affirmative action in a careless way, and so I researched it to find out more.”