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Piedmont contest to become annual event

These Piedmont High School seniors were winners in a school writing competition that asked the question: “How would your friends characterize you?” Pictured from left are Erica Medlin, the first-place winner; Laura Knight, second place; Pamela Nichols, third place; and Gracie Ridge, fourth-place.

A Piedmont High School Honors English teacher found a creative way to turn an essay contest into a fun and exciting learning experience, slated to become an annual event.
   
Rhonda Hill heard that Union County Community Arts Council was holding a writing contest involving all UCPS high schools. When the arts council canceled the event due to lack of participation, however, Hill decided to continue the contest at her school, with her Honors English seniors competing against each other. The top four winners were announced during a May 19, 2008, reception at the school.
   
The writing prompt, “How would your friends characterize you?” encouraged students to see themselves from the perspective of their friends.
   
“I’m very pleased with the way things turned out,” Hill said. “I think the students really got into it. I think they also learned a lot about themselves. It was eye opening for them to see what other members of the class had to say and have an opportunity to see how they are viewed.”
   
Hill broke the 2,500-word contest into three parts or three installments of 700 to 825 words. This gave students more direction during the writing process in order to make certain they were on the right track. “Then we did peer editing when they were finished,” Hill said.
   
When all essays were completed, UCPS High School English Curriculum Coordinator Cheryl Nelson coordinated the judging effort, using UCPS Curriculum staff as judges.
   
The first-place winner of the competition was 18-year-old Piedmont senior Erica Medlin. “I was really surprised,” she said. “Writing has never been my strong subject. I think I have to give credit to Ms. Hill. She’s been a real inspiration to me my entire high school career. She’s really changed my perspective on writing and life in general.”
   
Erica also credits her friends for input into her essay. “They gave me something to write about, the way they feel about me.”
   
Parents of contestants, including Erica’s parents, also attended the reception. “I knew Erica had placed in the top four, but I didn’t realize she had won,” said her father, Billy Medlin. “That’s very cool.”
   
Erica’s mother, Lisa Moscuzza, said her daughter had worked very hard on the essay. “She spent a lot of time on this paper,” she said. “She put a lot of hard work into this. This is a big honor for her.”
   
Winners won gift certificates to Borders Books of varying amounts, all provided by Piedmont High principal Wanda Little. Erica Medlin took first place in the competition, and won a $50 gift certificate; Laura Knight, took second place and won a $30 gift certificate; Pamela Nichols won third place and received a $20 gift certificate; while Gracie Ridge took fourth-place and won a $10 gift certificate.
   
Hill also made each winner one of her famous chocolate pies, as had been requested by student participants.
   
Nelson noted that a few other UCPS high schools also held writing contests at their school levels. Union County Early College, Weddington High School and Marvin Ridge

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: May 22, 2008 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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