WILMINGTON — An essay about something very personal has earned a St. Ann School seventh-grader attention beyond her own classroom.
Rafferty Hill was recognized recently in the 2021 National Scholastic Writing Competition for her essay “Remember.” It is about her grandparents and the struggle they are going through. Rafferty’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and her grandfather suffers from dementia. Her award was in the personal essay and memoir category.
“A lot of people don’t know about it. it also comforts other people to know that somebody’s going through something similar,” she said recently at the school.
Her grandparents, Margaret and John, live in Oneonta, N.Y. Rafferty’s aunt takes care of much of their day-to-day care.
The competition, which began in 1923, awards gold keys to 23 entries out of the 450 submissions. Those works advance to a national competition, in which Rafferty earned a silver key, one of 2,000 awarded out of 230,000 entries. She is the only student in a diocesan school to earn the national distinction.
She sees a future in words. She would like to be an author or editor. Rafferty said her mother has a friend who is a publisher, so she has had the opportunity to write a few book reviews. Writing is one of her favorite activities.
“It’s just so freeing, and the words, it’s like I’m not typing them. They just come out. I don’t know where they come from. It’s just really freeing to me,” she said.
Lynne Dickinson, who teaches writing at St. Ann’s, said this was the school’s second year in the National Scholastic Writing Competition. Her students have done a lot of work on various types of writing. Lately, they have been concentrating on argumentative writing, which involves a lot of research of facts and statistics, and citations.
She was thrilled to see the progress St. Ann students made in the competition. Statewide, in addition to Rafferty, Daryna Boiko won a silver key in the personal essay and memoir category, and Romy Campanelli and Gavin Rovner each received an honorable mention in poetry.
“I try to work really hard with the students so they can be free to share their thoughts,” Dickinson said. “A lot of times during these difficult times, if you will, people bottle up their thoughts, and freeing themselves on paper is a great avenue for the students. It releases them of a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Rafferty said she has a few book ideas floating around in her head. She’s OK with argumentative writing, but her interests are more along the lines of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Keeper of the Lost Cities.
“I really like fiction and fantasy,” she said.