By coincidence, four students under the same roof have earned spots in academic contests for scholarship money this year.
Wilson High School juniors Alysha Barnes, Lucas Shane and Secret Wilkins placed as finalists in the Red River Valley REA Youth Tour Contest, while senior Racelyn Gemmell won $500 in the Next Gen Personal Finance Payback essay contest.
“We’d written essays before, and that helped us out,” Barnes said. “If we make it to the finals, we’ll have to prep for a speech.”
Each Red River Valley competitor had to present three ways to save energy in their school building in their essay. The trio will be busy studying for their interviews on Feb. 15, along with the quiz portion of the contest. Once they’re through that round, they’ll move on to the speech portion, where they’ll present the same ideas they wrote about at the start of the process.
“You need unique ideas,” Barnes said.
The three share an English teacher, Sammy Cunningham-Reid. Wilkins said Cunningham-Reid exposed them to several unique essay structures, which helped them come up with their own ideas.
“Everybody writes in different ways,” Wilkins said. “There’s different ways, different templates to help you lay out your essay.”
Gemmell said her personal finance teacher, Mandy Roberts, approached her about the essay contest.
“It goes through a panel of judges and they pick the best few from each state, for all 50 states,” Gemmell said. “Then, it’s a scholarship you get based on your essay itself.”
Gemmell said she’s written plenty of essays for contests, but this is her first time competing in a personal finance contest.
“I wrote about tips and tricks to save money for college, and how to prepare for college,” Gemmell said. “It’s just kind of personal knowledge and what I learned in class. She taught us a lot about preparing, instead of waiting for things to happen last minute.”
The students had some advice for anyone who considers entering an essay contest: Work hard to stand out from the competition, and don’t procrastinate.