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Cathedral graduate’s essay among winning entries of national contest

 

NATCHEZ — A recent Cathedral High School graduate won a parting gift for the school with his grand prize-winning essay — a complete library of Signet Classics books with a retail value of approximately $1,600.

Samuel Freiberger, who graduated at the top of his class last May, submitted one of the five winning essays to the 23rd Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest last April and received news that he’d won the contest last month, he said.

“I was shocked,” Freiberger said. “I had honestly forgotten about the essay.”

The five grand prize essays were selected from those submitted by high-school juniors and seniors across the United States and the District of Columbia.

Sponsored by Penguin Publishing Group, the umbrella company for Penguin Classics books and Signet Classics books, each winner in the national essay contest received a $1,000 scholarship as well as a complete Signet Classics library to be donated to their high schools.

The competition focuses on a different novel or drama each year, said Cathedral teacher, Jean Biglane.

For this year’s novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Freiberger wrote an argumentative essay in response criticisms about racism and immoral behavior as reasons to ban the book in public schools, he said.

“Here’s a funny story,” Freiberger said. “I read the super-abridged version of the novel in second grade. I remember it because I tried to take a test on it in Accelerated Reader. There were six or seven different versions of it. I clicked one it was not the correct version, so I had to walk all the way over to the high school to have the test deleted.”

Freiberger will be starting school at Columbia University in August, which is a private Ivy League research university in New York City.

“I am very excited, and I’m ready to have work to do again,” Freiberger said. “This summer I’ve had a lot of spare time, so I’ve been playing my piano a lot and started reading the first six books of the Iliad for my freshman literature class.”

Freiberger said he has always enjoyed reading classic novels, adding “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë, “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley are among his favorites.

“Books really inform our understanding of how humans have progressed throughout the years,” Freiberger said. “Classics are important to both the past and the present, and that is why we still read them. They are still very relevant today.”