High School Students Honored as Winners in UA’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Essay Contest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – School winners in The University of Alabama’s 11th annual “To Kill a Mockingbird” Essay Contest for high school students were recognized with a luncheon and awards ceremony Friday, Jan.27.


School winners in UA’s essay contest were recognized at the University Club with a luncheon in their honor.


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and UA faculty member Rick Bragg was the guest speaker.

The essay contest began in 2001 to recognize author Harper Lee’s induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Contest submissions were accepted from public, private and home-schooled high school students.

Each participating school chooses a winning entry, and a monetary prize is given to each of the winners. Participants were required to write a 500-750 word essay about how the book speaks to readers in today’s society.

In her essay, this year’s statewide winner, Melissa Lawrence of Hewitt-Trussville High School wrote, “Through the life lessons that are exemplified by Atticus Finch, the novel still illuminates the world Scout dreams of, where people are just ordinary people and social classes are nonexistent.”

As the state winner, Lawrence received $500 and $500 was also awarded to her school, Hewitt-Trussville High School. A panel of judges from the UA Honors College and English department selects the statewide student winner.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” speaks to students in this generation as powerfully as it did to students of previous generations,” said Dr. Fran Oneal, associate director of the University Honors Program and director of the International Honors Program, who also oversees the essay competition.

All students who win the essay contest at their individual high schools were invited to attend the luncheon and an awards ceremony at UA. Student essays are also archived in UA’s Hoole Special Collections Library.

Noted author Rick Bragg, a faculty member of the UA department of journalism, was the featured speaker at the luncheon. Bragg is known for his writing on the South and contemporary America. His most famous work, “All Over but the Shoutin’,” is a critically acclaimed autobiography about growing up in the South. The book is found on the reading lists of universities throughout the country.

Bragg’s other books include “The Prince of Frogtown,” an exploration of his father’s life in their hometown of Jacksonville, and “The Most They Ever Had,” stories of men and women who worked in the Jacksonville cotton mill.

The essay contest is sponsored by the UA Honors College and the Alabama State Department of Education. Further support is provided by The Alabama Center for the Book, the UA Offices of Academic Affairs, Alumni Affairs and Undergraduate Admissions, and the University Libraries.

The 2012 winners included:

Keyanna Abrams Northridge High School
James Albritton Andalusia High School
Adam Alfano Decatur High School
Cole Baker Sheffield High School
Cassidy Balkcom Highland Home School
Corey Boswell Hale County High School
Duncan Brittain T R Miller High School
Emily Buice Tallassee High School
Leah Clark Holy Spirit High School
Stephen Cooper Charles Henderson High School
Carly Fenn Thompson High School
Morgan Fletcher Locust Fork High School
Tajnea Foster Pelham High
Margaret Friedenreich Auburn Jr. High School
Sarah Hartley Shades Valley High School
Elizabeth Heiss Daphne High School
Blair Hendricks Zion Chapel School
Hansol Hong BTW Magnet High
Melissa Huynh Sylacauga High School
Sara Kachelman Florence High School
Dominique Kelly Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School
Melissa Lawrence Hewitt-Trussville High School
Chelsea Lee Fayetteville School
Phillip McClendon Benjamin Russell High School
JaNae McNeil Booker T. Washington High School
Brianna Miller Alma Bryant High School
Madison Minshew Geneva High School
Siddhartha Namda Virgil I. Grissom High School
Kayela Norris Berry High School
Destiny Powell Foley High School
Rebecca Sales Monroe Academy
Amy Sims Gaston High School
Kathryn Skelton Northside High School
Eric Skidmore Jefferson County International Baccalaureate High School
Heather Smith Brookwood High School
Olivia Snyder Shelby County High School
Dylan Stewart KDS DAR High
Layla Tajmir Hoover High School
Candace Ward Winfield City High School
Elizabeth Ward Walker High School
Claudia Watkins Shades Valley High School
Jay Williams Susan Moore High School
Matthew Wilson Robertsdale High School
Madison Wolfe Smiths Station High School
Dana Zahran Liberty School

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