ALLIANCE ‒ Approximately 160 middle school students put their creative writing skills to the test Friday at the University of Mount Union.
Mount Union, which is on winter break, hosted the Power of the Pen district tournament sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Alliance. All of the writers are in seventh or eighth grade. Medals were awarded to 12 students in each grade.
Power of the Pen, the North Canton-based nonprofit interscholastic creating writing program, has nine regions. Eastern Region, District 1, schools participated in Friday's competition.
"They never compete against their own teammates," said Julie Lyberger, a regional director for Power of the Pen. "They never have their own coach as a judge. They never compete against the same kid twice."
How the competition works
Prior to the competition, teams practiced with a coach at their home schools.
Lyberger said the students then participated in three 40-minute rounds, writing stories from pre-determined creative writing prompts.
The competing schools were Alliance Middle School, Canton Country Day, East Canton Middle School, East Palestine Middle School, Edison Middle School (Perry Local), Fairless Middle School and Jackson Memorial Middle School.
Also, Marlington Middle School, Massillon Junior High School, North Canton Middle School, Northwest Middle School, Lake Middle High School, Oakwood Middle School (Plain Local), St. Joan of Arc School, St. Mary's School and St. Michael School competed.
Following the three challenges, the group of students had lunch and participated in activities at nearby Hoover-Price Campus Center, where the results were judged and revealed in an award ceremony.
The top students will be invited to participate in the regional tournament Feb. 25 at Lake Elementary School.
Power of the Pen builds confidence
Among those writers who went home with a medal were Kelly Lemmon's 12-year-old daughter, Riellyanne, a seventh-grader at Alliance Middle School. She finished in fifth place.
Lemmon, a social studies teacher and a parent representative for Alliance's Power of the Pen team, said the program has helped her daughter build confidence and find her voice.
"Middle school is rough and a lot of kids shut down and tend to lose confidence. ... She's kind of found this voice, and that her words are powerful," Lemmon said.
Serafina Louwerens, the 13-year-old daughter of parent volunteer, Tammy Louwerens, also participated in the writing competition for Marlington Middle School. The Louwerens family lives in Washington Township.
Tammy Louwerens said her daughter has loved to write "since she could put words together."
"I have so many pages saved in my little memory box of stories," she said, smiling. "As soon as she found out that this was about writing she was all for it."
Another daughter, Lorelei Louwerens, 12, a sixth-grade student, wants to follow in her sister's footsteps. She couldn't compete Friday because she was not old enough but she could help as a runner.
The runners helped get completed stories to judges.
"She also loves to write," Tammy Louwerens said. "I just love that part of a program explores their creativity and uses their imagination. Kids need that creative outlet."
Power of the Pen enhances writing skills
Haley Bonnot, 22, a law student at the University of Akron, is a former Power of the Pen participant. She went through program at Sts. Phillip and James School in Canal Fulton.
She later graduated from Tuslaw High School.
Bonnot returned to Power of the Pen as a volunteer Friday. She helped with score tabulations and other duties.
"In my high school experience, Power of the Pen really accelerated my writing skills. It helped train your brain to work in a different kind of atmosphere," Bonnot said.
District writing winners announced
A total of 24 writers - and three schools - were named winners of Friday's competition.
Lyberger announced the names with assistance from Mount Union professor Gwen Schwartz and Haggy Hageman from the Kiwanis Club. The seventh and eighth grade winners posed for group photos.
Seventh-grade winners were (in order, first to twelfth):
Adaline Borojevich, Fairless
Kristina Huffman, East Palestine
Lana Wright, North Canton
Bridget Newtz, Fairless
Reillyanne Lemmon, Alliance
Mia Patron, Edison
Isabelle Popham, Lake
Lennah Wolfe, Edison
Eva Fang, Northwest
Mayson Blevins, East Canton
Rowan Billker, North Canton
Destiny Nshimlye, North Canton
Eighth-grade winners were (in order, first to twelfth):
Jillian McCauley, East Palestine
Mariam Al-Abid, Northwest
Deidre Drensky, Lake
Kasey LaVoie, Northwest
Beata Prosser, St. Michael
Allison Arnold, Northwest
Derin DeHaven, Lake
Katherine Buehler, East Canton
Shelby Davidson, Northwest
Alyssa Morman, St. Michael
Alex Crawford, St. Mary's
Mae Axline, St. Michael.
Three schools - North Canton, Edison and St. Michael - also won overall seventh-grade team honors. Eighth-grade team winners were Northwest, Lake and St. Michael schools.
Reach Benjamin Duer at 330-580-8567 or email@example.com
Follow on Twitter @bduerREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Local Power of the Pen contest draws about 160 middle school writers