Two juniors and two seniors have won the top awards in the annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Presented by the South Carolina Honors College, the contest asks the same question each year: How can we make South Carolina better? Students can respond in poetry, prose, drama, and fiction, keeping their submission within 750 words. This year’s judge was Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center.
Lucia Stevick-Brown of Columbia won first place with her personal essay, “I Will Always Be a Product of South Carolina Public Schools.” A senior at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, Stevick-Brown described advocating for better educational goals at the “Red for Ed” event at the state house with her teacher and classmates in 2019. “This isn’t just the work of a remarkable burgeoning writer, it is the work of a future champion for the public good – and our Palmetto State always needs more of those,” Haupt commented. Stevick-Brown will receive the Walter Edgar Award, which includes $1,000. The Walter Edgar Award is provided by Thad Westbrook, a Columbia lawyer and University of South Carolina trustee, in honor of his history professor.
Amanda Murphy of Myrtle Beach won second place with her poem, “Seven Hundred and Fifty Words.” A junior at Early College High School in Conway, Murphy “pushes at the boundaries of the prompt as metaphoric of the restrictive conditions of oppression, which are the heartrending subjects of the piece itself,” Haupt wrote. Murphy will receive the South Carolina Academy of Authors Award, which includes $500.
Shahd Abdeladl of Greer and Aiden Wood of Charleston tied for third place. Adbeladl, a senior at Greenville Technical Charter School, described the racism she and other minorities experience in her essay “Making South Carolina Better for All.” Wood, a junior at Charleston County School of the Arts, tackled gun violence and school shootings in his poem, “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One.” Abdeladl and Wood will receive the South Carolina Academy of Authors/Pat Conroy Literary Center Award, which includes $250.
Now in its eighth year, the South High School Carolina Writing Contest was founded by Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College. The contest includes a publishing opportunity for its winners and finalists. This year, the submissions of 21 finalists will be published virtually on the South Carolina Honors College website.
“The cash awards are great, but we think the best prize is getting published,” said Aïda Rogers, contest coordinator. “We’re excited to bring their work to the public, and curious to see what these young people will do in the future.”
The contest’s presenting partners include the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina Academy of Authors, the South Carolina Writers Association, and the South Carolina State Library. Previous judges have been acclaimed South Carolina writers, including novelists Pat Conroy, Pam Durban, Mary Alice Monroe, and Elise Blackwell, poets Nikky Finney, Marjory Wentworth and Sam Amadon, and historian Walter Edgar.
The finalists for the 2020-2021 year are:
Oliver Abar, Mount Pleasant, Academic Magnet High School
Taylor Cook, Simpsonville, Greenville Technical Charter High School
Sophia Cox, Clemson, D.W. Daniel High School
Carolyn Christopher, Greer, Greer Middle College Charter High School
Emily Gray, Sumter, Wilson Hall
Angel Huang, Columbia, Spring Valley High School
Aiden Gavin Johnson, Mount Pleasant, Charleston County School of the Arts
Haya Kidwai, Duncan, GREEN Charter School of Greenville
Angela Levasseur, Moor, James F. Byrnes High School
Cassidy Lewis, Mount Pleasant, Charleston County School of the Arts
Sarah Nelson, Myrtle Beach, Socastee High School
Maggie Nolen, Piedmont, Wren High School
Maya Pai, Charleston, Academic Magnet High School
Ned Walpole, Johns Island, Charleston County School of the Arts
Bryanna Warner, Myrtle Beach, St. James High School
Alisa Wharton, Abbeville, Abbeville High School
Winnie Zheng, Clemson, SC Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics