Students earn top prizes in essay contest
Three Northwestern students earned awards in the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club Essay contest.
Maggie Mauro took top prize overall and Chris Hippensteel took second. Brandon Smeltz scored an honorable mention.
Mauro’s essay was partly true and partly fiction.
“I wrote about my dog Atticus, but the [actual] story was fake,” said the eighth grader. “I take him outside in the snow and he ends up saving a child in a woodsy area around my house. My dog is a star and he didn’t even have to get off the kitchen floor.”
Mauro is no stranger to writing contests.
“I entered the Scholastic writing competition and was awarded an honorable mention in the 7-12 age group for the northeast area of the U.S.,” she said. “I [also] won first place in the Patriot’s Pen contest.”
“I want to write as a living, but I understand that books don’t get published overnight,” said Mauro. “I’m setting my sights on being a published author, but editing is a thing I would definitely consider.”
“I’ve always been good at [writing]. You can let your creativity and emotions flow through your pen,” continued Mauro who admitted “typing on the computer [because] it’s easier to go back and edit things.”
Gifted teacher Beth Johnson promoted the contest in both the high school and middle school.
“I encouraged them to compete,” she said. “I alerted all the kids interested in journalism and writing and offered [the contest] as an option in the middle school.”
“I thought [the entries] were amazing,” said Johnson. “I also thought they were a testament to the hard work that our teachers put it. Every year you could see how they push their students.”
After learning about the contest from Johnson, Hippensteel jumped at the chance to participate.
“I really liked the opportunity to do something,” he said. “It’s pretty much my greatest life dream to become a writer.
“I’d love to be an independent writer but I know it’s definitely difficult for people who want to get into the field,” Hippensteel said.
But the junior is hopeful about using his writing skills in the future.
“There’s a need for writing in every profession,” he said.
Hippensteel, who serves as the assistant editor of the high school newspaper, is constantly looking for writing contests to challenge his skills.
“I’m waiting to hear back from two other contests, [including] the Canvas Online Youth Publication,” he said.
“I was used to writing [but] I wasn’t used to presenting my work [but] it went better than I thought it would,” said Hippensteel. “My parents were proud.”
Hippensteel wrote about a German Shephard named Blitz.
“The name came from my dad,” he explained. “It was definitely a narrative, partly based on my dog Riley and partly on my neighbor’s situation.”
“The story I wrote was about a dog a family adopts, while they were going through financial difficulties. The dog brings them together,” he continued. “It had to be story you could deliver in a 2-4 minute presentation.”
Smeltz doesn’t actually have a dog, but he wrote about a fictional dog named Sparky and a boy who have an adventure.
“The boy finds the dog and then the boy loses the dog but he goes back into the woods to find him.”
Smeltz was also motivated by Johnson.
“Mrs. Johnson showed us the contest and I just decided to write for it,” he said. “I was kind of excited to be a semifinalist. I didn’t think I was actually going to make it to semifinalist.”
“My parents were kind of surprised,” said Smeltz, who wants to be an engineer or an architect.
“I read it in front of the Kennel Club and it went pretty well.”
The mission of the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club is “to aid in the betterment and advancement of purebred dogs.”
The club issued cash awards to the top winners after they presented their essays first at the Ramada Inn and then at Ag Hall on Feb. 5.