The Coon Rapids Rotary Club has sponsored an annual writing contest for decades, most recently co-sponsoring contests with the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation.
Previously, elementary school students living within the Anoka-Hennepin School District penned essays on various topics, but this year, with the implementation of new English language arts curriculum in the primary grades, it was too difficult for teachers to incorporate the contest into learning and maintain fidelity to the new curriculum. So middle school students participated instead.
Students wrote on the theme “Oh, what a feeling!” They described a time in their life when they had strong feelings in 500 words or less.
Six young writers were recognized at a Coon Rapids Rotary Club meeting May 8 at the Bunker Hills Event Center in Coon Rapids.
In sixth grade, Kathryn Downs received first place, and Alexis Reichwein was awarded second place. Both students study at Oak View Middle School in Andover.
At the seventh-grade level, there were two ties. Natasha Murphy Newberger and Kate Garbow both were awarded first place, and Ella Hacker and Layla Comstock tied for second place. All are students at Coon Rapids Middle School.
Winning entries were selected from approximately 90 submissions, said Shawna Feist, AHEM board member and contest organizer.
Bravely, Alexis shared an essay detailing her mother’s death after cardiac arrest.
“These are and will be the worst days of my life,” Alexis said, remembering the “agonizing, heart-terrorizing days” she experienced losing her mother as an 8-year-old child.
“I can tell you, you made your mother proud today,” Feist said.
Kathryn followed with an up-and-down story about her first visit to the Boundary Waters. She recalled the beauty of the scenery, but also recollected her fright after falling into the lake and exhibiting early signs of hypothermia.
Ella’s story was a comedy set in her neighbor’s garden. Being a “lazy child” in kindergarten, Ella didn’t like to stand and wait for the bus, so she sat in her neighbor’s garden until the woman put up a fence. One morning, she disregarded the fence, and the yelling that followed was unforgettable.
Layla paid tribute to her late great-grandfather, using figurative language to describe the feeling of seeing her father cry for the first time and the loss of a man so dear. “All of a sudden my life turned into a storm,” she wrote.
The shame and terror Natasha felt when her little brother did not turn up after school one day was the subject of her winning entry. The story had a happy ending: Natasha’s little brother was found safely after getting off at the wrong bus stop.
Kate wrote about the “plethora of feelings bubbling inside” when her cat Sadie was put to sleep when she was in kindergarten. “Sadie was like the sister that I never had.”
First-place winners received $30 and a complimentary lunch, while second-place finishers received $25 and lunch. Third- and fourth-place writers received smaller cash prizes.
“It’s nice to see the kids gain confidence speaking in front of people,” said Nick Bednarczyk, president of the Coon Rapids Rotary.