Junior Wins State Essay Competition

John Park, Managing Editor of News and Feature

     Results for the 2020 Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition and the 2020 Latino History Essay Competition were recently released by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). Junior Phoenix Pittman was awarded as state champion in the Barbara Jordan competition. Senior Emma Cook was also a state finalist and for the Latino History Essay Competition, with junior Josh Smith being awarded fourth place.

     “What makes [these] contest unique is its long-term format, allowing for the use of original sources and primary sources,” speech teacher John Fugler said. “This pushes students to develop research skills that will aid them throughout their academic futures beyond high school. As an educator, I believe this contest is a much-needed addition to the curriculum for our brightest students.”

     In both contests, students were given guidelines to keep their essay to a word count between 1,500 and 2,500, to use research paper format, source their citation and bibliography, and their essay should have displayed original research, the use of primary sources and interviews were highly encouraged. All essays were due February 19, 2020, and this year marks the first year that Lindale has participated in either contest. 

     “Given my experience with the contest this year, I would definitely try it again next year given the opportunity,” Smith said. “I think that not only was this a productive contest because it started a lot of conversations within classes that otherwise would not have been started, but it also gave me an opportunity to work with my peers and my teacher to sharpen the writing skills learned in other classes.” 

     After all the essays had been submitted judges evaluated each that met the basic requirements and then selected 12 state finalists from each contest and each of the finalists’ essays from both contests will become part of the Texas historical record.

     “I feel grateful toward Mr. Fugler for spending those hours researching topics for us [at] the beginning of the project,” Pittman said. “Spending those hours going over meticulous things like the phrasing of our thesis statements or if we have too much passive voice, and those long nights putting a thin comb through each one of our essays and coming back with detailed editing for each and every one of us [helped].”

     Finalist essays from the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Contest will be archived at the Briscoe Center while finalist essays from the Latino History Essay Contest will be archived as part of the Benson Collection, both of which are housed at UT Austin.

     “It was so rewarding to choose from a variety of people that were lesser-known and learn stories that are usually not told,” Smith said. “It was eye-opening, to say the least, because of how in-depth we went on these people, and I think the process of development not only helped with the writing of the essay but gave meaning to that writing in the first place.”