Winners named in Paul Engle 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 10 high school sophomores from across Iowa.

The winning essay was “Beneath a Green Sky,” by Natalie Holmes, a student at Iowa City High School. In recognition of her essay, Natalie will receive one year of free tuition to the University of Iowa, offered in partnership with the UI.

In the essay, she writes about a tornado that hit Iowa City in 2006 when she was a young girl, and about the stories her mother told her and her siblings during the storm to keep them calm.

The essays were judged by a team from ACT in Iowa City. Commenting on Natalie’s essay, the team said, Holmes’ essay stood out because of her “masterful weaving of the essential themes of Iowan life.”

“The powerful force of Nature enveloping us, the comfort of close family, equanimity in the face of crisis, the transformative power of our creative imagination — the Iowa of Natalie’s story-within-a-story is at once both fantastical and familiar, retelling a powerful recent event from our lives with the wonder and innocence of a child.”

The competition 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.

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.

Nine runners up from around the state will receive $500 cash scholarships from the City of Literature. This year’s cash scholarships were funded by a donation made in honor of departing University of Iowa President Sally Mason in recognition of her six years as a member of the City of Literature board of directors.

The runners up are:

  • Julia DeValk, Solon
  • Peyton Schmitt, Lone Tree
  • Olivia Schuster, Dyersville
  • Shannon Hoffman, Dyersville
  • Allysan Bushore, Boone
  • Sophia Burger, Spencer
  • Deion Malloy, Wayland
  • Hailey Pullman, Hawarden
  • Alex Kasemeier, Denver

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

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