Albuquerque fifth grader wins national poster contest

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s not every day fifth graders are recognized by state leaders in front of their entire school, but it is every day children like 11-year-old Darrell Montoya go missing. That is the message he hopes to convey with his winning entry for the National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest.

“I don’t know about you, but I think that when the rest of the country gets to see the work that Darrell put together, I have a feeling that New Mexico’s going to win the national contest,” New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said. 

Montoya’s award-winning poster depicts hands reaching out from the darkness toward a frightened little boy, holding his father’s hand. 

“I had the idea that the hands would be like the bad people–the people who try to kidnap the kid right here, and the dad is protecting the kid from being kidnapped,” Montoya explained. “And there’s eyes as if people are watching the kid too.”

He joins children across the country who submitted similar art pieces, all to raise awareness for missing and exploited children.

“I’m going to throw a number out at you guys right now and tell you how many kids go missing a year,” Lt. Mark Soriano said during the Rio Rancho Elementary assembly in Montoya’s honor Tuesday morning. “In 2021, 364,000 kids [went] missing.”

“Imagine just today, in this room of people, all of your friends here, one of you just wasn’t there anymore,” Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull added.

Attorney General Torrez said what Darrell created expresses the feelings of every child and adult in New Mexico and reminds everyone how important it is to take care of one another.

When asked what he hopes people will feel when looking at the poster that took him seven hours to complete.

“I think they will feel that they feel safe because they know that there’s someone protecting them with their parents or like a guardian protecting them, and that they will also say that it’s a nice drawing and stuff,” said Montoya.