by Dale Marie Prenatt
It was blustery and snowing in Cincinnati early this week but a warm community greeted the winners of Writing Our Roots. Celebrating the creativity of Cincinnati’s young writers, students ages 13-23 shared their own prose and poetry based on their heritage at the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at UC on November 11, 2019.
Writing Our Roots, the first Cincinnati-Area Young People’s Writing Contest was sponsored by the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, the University of Cincinnati English Department, and WordPlay Cincinnati with additional funding and in-kind support from the UC Taft Research Center, UC College of Arts and Sciences, UC Department of Romance and Arabic Languages and Literature, UC African American Cultural and Resource Center, Thomas More University Creative Writing Vision Program, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House Cincinnati.
The awards ceremony represented the culmination of many months of work by these partner sponsors and of course the over forty young writers who sent their work. Students had the opportunity to join Desirae Hosley, Pauletta Hansel and Yalie Kamara at WordPlay for Writing Our Roots workshops in preparation for the contest. Thanks to all the members of our generous community who took part; including our sponsors, participants, judges, parents, and volunteers who supported this first contest. UACC will continue the event annually.
Eleven students from nine schools shared their work on Monday evening, cheered on by a friendly crowd of parents, friends, and event organizers. All addressed themes of how their roots, however they see them, helped to shape their families, communities, and views on the world. Representing a wide variety of backgrounds, students told their stories of place and identity.
One of the project organizers, UACC Core member Pauletta Hansel, helped emcee the event with Desirae Hosley, The Silent Poet. The two talented emcees were joined by special guest Omope Carter Daboiku, all of whom shared their own writing as well. A complete list of all winners follows. Asterisks indicate those students who shared their work at the ceremony on November 11, 2019.
*FIRST Place: Nisa Muhammad, University of Cincinnati
*SECOND Place: Sarah Williams-Bryant, Northern Kentucky University
THIRD Place: Abygia Tibebe, University of Cincinnati
HONORABLE MENTION: Michael Thompson, Thomas More University
HONORABLE MENTION: Amanda Frazier, University of Cincinnati
HONORABLE MENTION: Jillian Caldwell, Thomas More University
*FIRST Place: Aidarbek Kabylbekov, University of Cincinnati
*SECOND Place: Becky R. Davila-Lopez, University of Cincinnati—Blue Ash
*THIRD Place Tie: Eleanor Scheper, Dixie Heights High School
THIRD Place Tie: Kaitlyn Palermo, Wyoming High School
*HONORABLE MENTION: Yasmeen Makarem, University of Cincinnati
HONORABLE MENTION: Sha’kyra Welch, University of Cincinnati
FIRST Place: Ria Parikh, Sycamore High School
*SECOND Place: Zola Hoffmeister, Wyoming High School
*THIRD Place: Claire Hulett, Notre Dame Academy
*HONORABLE MENTION: Jasmine Dunigan, Princeton High School
*HONORABLE MENTION: Josef Gantner, Inspire Institute
HONORABLE MENTION: Emma Wald, Notre Dame Academy
Brooklynn Ingram, Oyler School
*Mohagany Wooten, Oyler School
In addition to celebrating writers in three age-based categories, UACC was proud to honor two students with a special Oyler Prize in recognition of a long-standing relationship with Oyler School. Mohagany Wooten, age 15, accompanied by Oyler teacher Cierra Jordan, read her winning piece at the ceremony. Another Oyler Prize awardee, Brooklynn Ingram, age 13, was unable to attend but Brooklynn’s mother shared, “I am incredibly proud of my daughter!”
Of the students who read their work at the event, Pauletta says, “We were all moved by the power of these young writers’ words. I can’t wait to hear more from them.”
Dale Marie Prenatt is the coordinator of UACC’s Urban Appalachian Leadership Project. She is a poet and storyteller from southern West Virginia by way of east Kentucky, now living in Cincinnati.