Power of the Pen Contestants Eloquently Express Themselves

College of Wooster hosts 750 students at annual state championship competition

May 30, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Legendary Russian author Anton Chekhov, often referred to as the father of the modern short story, advised young writers to be precise in their details so that their descriptions could be seen and touched. More than a century after Chekhov’s death, aspiring young writers continue to follow his instruction, including the 750 seventh and eighth graders who participated in the 2013 Power of the Pen State Championship last week at The College of Wooster.

The competitive season, which began with some 7,500 students representing 300 middle schools, came to a climax at the state championship with only one in 10 remaining for the final rounds.

Carolyn Newton, Provost at Wooster, began the day with words of welcome to an overflow crowd of enthusiastic students, teachers, and family members in McGaw Chapel. “Your careful and creative use of language paints pictures that take readers on journeys,” said Newton. “Power of the Pen is a glorious event filled with hope and hard work...and your ability to express yourself through the written word helps define who you are.”

After a few morning brainteasers to stimulate the students’ minds and a hula-hoop competition to stimulate their bodies, the rush was on to the first of three rounds, each of which allowed 35 minutes to respond to a provocative prompt. For seventh graders, one of the prompts asked them to “write about something it takes two to do.” Eighth graders were asked to “go through the rubble after a storm and describe the pieces of your life that you find” in one of their prompts.

Featured speaker Katherine Applegate, Newberry award-winning author, spoke after lunch, and told students, “Don’t do it if you don’t love it, and if you do love it, do it forever.”

Despite the competitive nature of the event, students were able to step back and recognize the value of the experience itself. “Power of the Pen has given me a chance to get in touch with my feelings, put them on paper, and put words to my meaning,” said Gabreille Dorsey, a seventh grader from Fairlawn Middle School.

Ben Rife of Highland Middle School was eager to express his deep connection with the written word. “Power of the Pen gives me a chance to do what I love,” he said. “I pour my heart and soul into what I write. It’s my passion.”

Some students, like Kayla Lenahan from St. Raphael Middle School, were there simply for the joy of expression. “I’m most excited about writing,” she said. “I don’t even care if I place or not; I just want to write.”

Top scorers advanced to a power round, and at the end of the day, participants reconvened in McGaw Chapel, where the winners were recognized. The top finisher in the seventh-grade competition was Rhonda Krehbiel of Talawanda Middle School, followed by Sarah Szilagy (Hudson Middle School) in second and Emma Coffman (St. Peter and Paul School) in third. The eighth-grade winner was Maddy Carek of Brady Middle School, followed by Isabel Sands (also of Brady Middle School) in second and Billy Vidmar (St. John of the Cross School) in third. The team championship went to Hudson Middle School, followed by Athens Middle School in second and Brady Middle School in third.

A number of other awards were also presented, including the newly established Flo K. Gault Poetry competition, honoring the memory of the revered Wooster graduate and philanthropist. Cheyenne Brown (Indian Valley Middle School) finished first for her poem “Leave Some of Your Own,” while Lily Ann Herold (Athens Middle School), who wrote “The Little House” and Alex Johnson (Lake Middle School), who wrote “Our Woods,” received an honorable mention designation. Awards were also presented for humor and versatility.

In addition, five students earned Promising Young Talent Awards, which would provide a $6,000 scholarship for each of four years at The College of Wooster if the students enroll and are accepted, while four others were selected to share the $50,000 LCM Beacher Creative Talent Award.

- Story by Libby Fackler ‘13