HANCOCK - With most universities and workplaces expecting incoming students or applicants to have a high level of communication skills, writing has become an integral skill for students to learn in high school.
To help hone that particular skill, the Dixon-Ticonderoga Writers Group held its third annual writing contest this spring, rewarding the best student writers from local schools. After receiving more than 100 applicants, the DTWG awarded $50 for first place and $25 for second place in three genres: poetry, essay and short story.
"This is the highest quantity and quality we've ever had," said Dennis Walikainen, who, along with four other community members, makes up the DTWG. "We were just overjoyed with the results we got."
The DTWG ended up accepting 118 total entries - 11 short stories, 86 poems and 21 essays - from Chassell, Houghton, Hancock and the Copper Country Christian School. Hancock junior Angela Stites took first place in short story for "Shades of Grey" while Hancock freshman Leslie Hamar came in second with "The Never-Ending Storm." For poetry, "Almost Age 18" by Chassell's Jacob Michael Tuomi took top prize, and "Like a Dying Light Bulb" by Chassell's Ayla L. LaRoe garnered runner-up honors. In the essay category, "The Wild of Camp" by Houghton's Jessica Ahlborn won first place, and "Put the Bottle Down" by Hancock's Stephanie Dunstan took second.
For Stites, this was her third win in three tries, and Walikainen has been impressed by her progression as a writer.
"We've seen her voice develop over these three years," he said. "We've seen how her writing has improved. She's got a really good gift."
When all the submissions are gathered, the five members of the DTWG get together and vote for the winners, looking for specific strengths in the writing.
"We look for originality, quality of writing, development of plot if it's a short story, character, things like that," Walikainen said. "We look that they shape their arguments well and bring it forth in the essay, and if it's a poem, it grabs you."
Overall, Walikainen was satisfied with how the contest has developed over the years and is looking forward to its fourth year starting up in 2012.
"The Copper Country is loaded with good writers," he said.