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 seven high school sophomores from across Iowa.

The winning essay from among 78 submissions was “Swing Tree,” by Emma Holmes, a student at Iowa City High School. In it, she writes about a fire caused by lightning that destroyed a tree where she played as a child. Holmes’ prize is one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa, offered in partnership with the UI.

The contest asked Iowa high school sophomores to write a three-to-five-page essay about an “Iowa experience,” drawing on a specific memory to capture the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of the day. Essays were scored by a panel including educators and writers led by Adam Witte, chair of the English Department at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.

The contest and an accompanying week-long 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.

Six runners up from around the state will receive $500 cash scholarships from the City of Literature. The scholarship fund is composed of donations from individual donors to the program. The runners up are:

  • Jayda Baumhover, East Sac County High School
  • Rose Deighton, Glenwood Community High School
  • Laura Perez, Maple Valley Anthon-Oto School
  • Alyssa Raver,  Ankeny High School
  • Sophie Steffensmeier, Beckman Catholic High School
  • Nicole Weissenfluh, Dike-New Hartford High School

All prize winners will be recognized on Oct. 12, which is Paul Engle Day in Iowa. The event will be held in conjunction with the Iowa City Book Festival, and the students will be invited to read their winning essays.

This is the second year for the contest, which was taken statewide for the first time in 2013.

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