Clark Wood essay winners

Nicholas Welch and Bella Boom, fifth graders at Clark Wood Elementary School in Elkland, tied for first place in a national essay contest.

Two local students are sharing first place in a national essay contest.

Nicholas Welch and Bella Boom, fifth graders at Clark Wood Elementary School in Elkland, tied for the top prize in the National Rural Education Association’s essay contest, for third through fifth graders from across the country.

“I’m so proud of them,” said their teacher, Wade Owlett, an intermediate English and language arts teacher at Clark Wood. “Technical writing can be a struggle for elementary students who are more used to writing stories and narratives. I’m really proud of them for tackling that, for not giving up and for trying something new and out of their comfort zone.”

Owlett, who was NREA’s 2018 National Rural Teacher of the Year, said about 40 students entered the contest in April. They hit a small hiccup when the contest prompts changed before the final draft was due.

“We had to ditch our original essays and re-write them on time,” he said. “This was actually a great lesson for our students. It is beneficial for them to know you may have to re-write and edit your work under a time crunch.”

Out of several prompts offered in the contest, Owlett’s class chose to answer, “How have citizens improved your community over time and what are examples of institutional and non-institutional ways people have made changes in your community?”

Nicholas is the son of Melissa Hoover and Tim Welch. In his essay, “A Prosperous Community,” he wrote, “New technology has also improved the way people communicate with each other. For example, if you have a business meeting, you have a lot of different ways you can communicate nowadays. With improved technology, your business can communicate online whenever it works for them. This can make your business prosperous. This way of communication has helped my community’s businesses during the time of Covid-19. If a community can improve its communication, the community’s businesses can become stronger and more prosperous.”

Bella is the daughter of Tracey Boom and Daniel Boom. In her essay, “The Improvement of My Community,” she wrote, “We have special programs that help people in need. At some schools in my community, we have special programs that include having people bring food and clothes to those people who don’t have what they need. People in the community donate to the program so they can give back to the community. Some people like to give to the poor on a daily basis. This is how we use our special programs. Some people in our community give to people to help them. People like to help people by giving to them. You can give to your neighbor, or a friend. You can also give to people you just met. You can give food, clothes, and more. This is how we help people, and it makes our community proud.”

Owlett said the second and third place winners were from Illinois and Iowa.

For their first-place prizes, Nicholas and Bella each received $250. They found out they won on Monday, May 17, with a special Zoom call organized by Owlett.

“I knew I had two winners, so instead of just telling them, I staged a Zoom call where they thought they were on a national call announcing the winners. I really hyped the students up about it,” said Owlett, who invited an NREA representative to announce Nicholas and Bella as winners on the call.

“Many classrooms tuned into the call, and you could hear everyone cheering and clapping for our winners throughout the school. Our school is always so supportive of each other. This was a great time for something hopeful and happy to happen.”

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