For the second consecutive year, a Thomasville City Schools student has received the top honor of state winner in the YGA writing competition. After current junior Aubrey Brumblow was named in 2014, Lawson Brinkley captured his state-level victory for sixth grade with “The Journey of a Sea Turtle.” Brinkley chose to write his entry as a first-person description.
“I felt like if I wrote in first person, the people reading it would be pulled into it,” said Brinkley.
Brinkley was a fellow RESA district winner along with Scott Elementary students: Rhaniya Wilson and Radiant Sapp and Scholars Academy students: Alexa Hernandez and Hannah Ouzts.
Wilson was a second grade student of Samantha Greene and her winning piece was a memoir entitled “Mountain Vacation.”
Greene said that she is proud of Wilson’s work that was based on an assignment in which students were to write about a special memory. Greene attributes prewriting activities like “Draw-Label-Caption,” journaling, and other graphic organizers with the excellent writing that Wilson was able to produce.
Sapp’s fifth grade winning piece entitled “Ellis Island: The Hardest Journey Yet” was a historical fiction product from Rebecca Tabb’s class. Sapp’s mother-and-child main characters were inspired by a list of ethnic names Tabb provided that would go along with the nationalities of immigrants.
“I took what really happened and made a story. Our teacher taught us about the sacrifices people had to make to arrive at Ellis Island,” said Sapp.
Ouzts’s eighth-grade-winning piece entitled “Disproportion” tells the heart-wrenching story of two poverty-stricken young boys in the 1930’s: one with an amputated leg and one who appears “normal” but has other self-image problems.
Ouzts said, “You don’t have to be normal to be special; everyone is unique in their own way.”
Scholars Academy teacher Dawn Hunnewell was the English teacher of both the 6th and 8th grade winners. Hunnewell’s students engage in some aspect of writing every day in class. She described her reaction as excited and humbled.
“I am just one on a team of teachers. It’s always fun to win!” said Hunnewell.
Hunnewell explained that the elements that make a good writer go beyond merely ability; hard work, discipline, and a good attitude are needed to train a student to become a good writer.
Hernandez was recognized for the second year at the RESA district level, and her ninth-grade-winning piece was entitled “The Heist.” She offered advice to younger writers and her peers who may aspire to win in the competition.
“Usually a story builds on itself over a period of time. Trying to write an entry in a couple of hours isn’t going to be a very well-developed story,” said Hernandez. “The most influential skill that Mrs. Thrower taught us was using detail so that the reader can see what is happening in his or her mind.”
Frances Thrower, Hernandez’s 9th grade Scholars Academy teacher, explained that the grade-level winners from the school are selected by a committee of all of the Scholars Academy English teachers in a reading session where the names of the writers are removed.
Thrower selected “The Heist” because it had humor and an interesting twist. Thrower builds writer confidence with her use of the “chunk writing” formula, but then students progress into their own voices in the award-winning creative writing pieces that come out of the Scholars Academy English classes. Analysis of good literature is yet another avenue Thrower mentions in the development toward good writing.
The Young Georgia Authors Contest is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Council of Teachers of English. It encourages students to develop enthusiasm for and expertise in their writing, provides a context to celebrate writing successes, and recognizes student achievement in arts and academics. The competition has been engaging Georgia students for more than two decades and is open to any student currently enrolled in Georgia’s public schools, grades K-12.
Unlike many writing competitions, the Young Georgia Authors competition does not require students to respond to a specific prompt and does not place any boundaries on students’ genre choice or creativity beyond a five-page maximum length. Students may submit short stories, poetry, essays/literary criticism/analysis, journalism, academic/research reports, personal narratives and any other original writing.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said, “Reading, writing and literacy are so important; in many ways, they are the foundation for all other educational achievement. These students are shining stars in that area – I am so proud of each of them and enjoyed reading their excellent work.”