Bright Future: Students excel at state DAR essay contest

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, March 29, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — Three local students recently made a little history of their own after being named Daughters of the American Revolution American History essay contest winners.

Seventh-grader Andrew Sessions of Wilkinson County Christian Academy won first place among seventh-graders in the Mississippi contest. Cathedral Middle School eighth-grader Ashley Coleman won second place and Cathedral fifth-grader Margaret Elizabeth Waddill won third place in their respective grade divisions.

Email newsletter signup

This year’s statewide contest winners said they were surprised and excited about the awards.

“I didn’t expect to get first place,” Sessions said.

“I was excited, I didn’t think I would place so high,” Waddill said.

“I didn’t think it was for real, I thought Miss. Elliott was kidding when she said it,” Coleman said.

The DAR is an organization that promotes historic preservation, education and patriotism.

The contest was established to encourage students to think creatively, and essays are judged for historical accuracy and adherence to the topic.

This year students were asked to write about a national park as if they were writing entries in a journal. The topic was chosen to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service.

Top scoring essays from area schools were sent to the local chapters of the DAR for judging. Winners in the local competition were sent to state.

Sessions’ essay described Mesa Verde National Park, which came easily to him since he had visited the park last summer.

“I wrote it like it was a tour through the park: going there, being there, then coming home,” Sessions said. “I was relaying what I saw.”

Sessions’ essay will now go on to compete in the Southeast United States Division contest.

Coleman’s essay was a journal entry from the perspective of a girl who travels with her family to the Virgin Islands.

“The girl and her brother are always competing,” Coleman said. “One day they go scuba diving and then raced to the top of the water, but something goes wrong and the girl ends up hospitalized. She learns that you have to take your time and live in the moment.”

Coleman said she enjoyed writing creatively and thinks she would like to be an author or a journalist one day.

Waddill decided to write her essay on Mammoth Cave National Park.

“I described what Mammoth Cave looked like from pictures I found online,” Waddill said.

Wadill’s teacher Tori Webber said she wants Waddill to write a series of stories because of how talented she is at writing.

“When I was younger I would write novel stories,” Waddill said. “Now I write stories on my computer whenever I get an idea.”

Teachers of the winning students said the DAR essay contest is a valuable teaching tool.

Sessions’ English teacher Alicia Randall said the contest gives students an opportunity to see how to use the writing process outside the classroom.

“Teaching kids how to write is challenging,” Randall said.

Webber shares Randall’s sentiment.

“At this age, they don’t understand it,” Webber said. “So we took a trip to the DAR headquarters. We had Mary Ellen Rosenblatt step into the classroom one day and explain what it means to be a member of the DAR. It made the assignment real for them.”

This is the first year fifth-graders have been allowed to participate in the DAR American History Essay Contest.