Winners named in City of Literature student essay contest

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization has completed judging for this year’s Paul Engle Day: Glory of the Senses Essay Contest, and will award scholarships to nine high school sophomores from across Iowa.

The winning essay was “Adrift,” by Jackie Olberding, a student at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville. In recognition of her essay, Jackie will receive one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa, offered in partnership with the UI.

In the essay, she writes about canoeing on the river with her mother. The contest asks students to pay special attention to include details that evoke the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, capturing the day with all five senses. In her essay, Olberding does this, remarking on the feel of the cold water and the sound of the birds singing in the trees.

The essays were judged by a team from ACT in Iowa City. Commenting on Jackie’s essay, the team praised the way Olberding captured details.

“As readers we were unanimously drawn to Jackie’s ability to simply, and clearly convey a host of sensory experiences through her highly focused narrative. Jackie’s intimate portrayal of just a few moments on the river both captures her Iowa experience, and makes it accessible in a way that let’s every reader participate in her memory.”

The contest and an accompanying weeklong curriculum distributed to all high schools in Iowa are based on the writings of Paul Engle – the long-time director of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop and co-founder of the UI’s International Writing Program – particularly his memoir, A Lucky American Childhood.

Eight runners up from around the state will receive $500 cash scholarships from the City of Literature. The runners up are:

  • Jade Barnes, Spencer
  • Olivia Coram, Muscatine
  • Madison Johnson, Denver
  • Rebecca Johnson, Remsen
  • Peter Noll, Ankeny
  • Lauren Perdew, Bedford
  • Isabel Rushton, Iowa City
  • Cecelia Thomas, Iowa City

 All prize winners will be recognized this fall at an event in Iowa City.

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