Eighth-grade essay contest highlights Women’s History Month

‘A woman of significance’ the topic for annual essay contest

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 27, 2013

ROCHESTER — The American Association of University Women of Rochester, in partnership with the Rochester Hills Public Library and the Auburn Hills Public Library, is sponsoring its 10th annual eighth-grade essay contest in honor of National Women’s History Month this March.

“The contest is open to eighth-grade students in the Rochester and Avondale school districts, as well as students who are home schooled or in area private schools,” said Linda Pannuto, chair of the essay contest.

The purpose of the contest, according to Pannuto, is to encourage both male and female students to become more aware of the important ways women have made the world a better place.

“History tends to be, by its title, ‘his story,’ and we want it to be a little bit of her story, and to realize that women have had an equal, if not — in some cases — a greater impact in certain areas. We want people to be aware of what women can do, the progress they have made and the contributions that they made,” she said.

Students are asked to exhibit their writing skills by composing essays of 400 words or fewer on the theme “A Woman of Significance to Me,” about a woman who is, or has been, an inspirational force in their lives or the lives of others. The person chosen as the subject of the essay could be a family member, a teacher, someone in the community or a historical figure who has opened the student’s mind to new ideas.

“(Students have written about) very famous women — with name recognition — or people who are not famous outside of their own family, school or friends. We’ve had people write about their older sister, aunts, cousins, grandparents and parents, as well as women athletes, musicians and movie stars. Women make a contribution in all walks of life, and we want participants to be aware of that,” Pannuto said.

On average, the contest brings in about 50 entries, which are judged by AAUW members. Judges pay particular attention to how students explain what personal goals they are able to pursue because of the influence of their chosen woman of significance, according to Pannuto.

“We’ve heard and read some really inspirational essays over the years,” she added.

Rochester Hills Public Library Director Christine Lind-Hage has attended the event a number of times said the essays are always “well-written” and “very heartfelt.”

“The contest matches with the library’s goal of making sure students and individuals learn and live well. It’s rewarding to see the talent from our schools and how well the students do,” she said.

Contest awards and certificates of achievement will be distributed at the AAUW of Rochester general meeting at the Rochester Community House April 25, where the students will read their essays aloud. First- , second- , and third-place essays will be awarded cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50, respectively, and Pannuto said several essays will also be named honorable mentions.

Application forms and contest rules are available at Avondale, Hart, Reuther, Van Hoosen and West middle schools, at the Auburn Hills Public Library and the Rochester Hills Public Library, and at www.rhpl.org.

Entries must be postmarked by April 10 and sent to Eighth Grade Women’s History Month Essay Contest c/o Linda Pannuto, 1375 Hathaway Rising, Rochester Hills, MI 48306 or scanned with a signed permission form and emailed to pannutol@gmail.com. For more information about the contest, call Pannuto at (248) 651-0436.