BRHS senior Austin Ward’s essay was selected from a pool of 64 contestants. | Alison James

Archived Story

Local student wins state essay contest

Published 2:54pm Friday, January 18, 2013

Cash prizes of $500 for Benjamin Russell High School as well as BRHS senior Austin Ward – that was the outcome of Ward’s entry in the 11th Annual To Kill A Mockingbird Contest.

Ward was the statewide winner out of a pool of 64 contestants in ninth through 12th grade across the state. The contest was sponsored by the Honors College at The University of Alabama.

“I was surprised – I didn’t think it was that good,” Ward said.

Ward’s three-page essay had to answer the prompt that pointed out how much time has passed since Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and said, “Since then this country has advanced technologically, legally and socially, but Lee’s book remains the iconic work of American fiction. What is it in To Kill a Mockingbird that still speaks powerfully to readers today?”

“I’ve always been told I was a good writer,” Ward said. “I decided to talk about how the book is from a child’s perspective … and how her innocence impacted the things going on around her and how she didn’t see things the way the adults did.”

Ward said he found out Monday that he had won.

His award letter said his entry “stood out to the panel of judges as best expressing the focus of the essay contest, the enduring appeal of To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Ward, who is considering majoring in biology at Auburn University after graduation, will receive his award in a ceremony at The University of Alabama – $500 for him and $500 for BRHS. His essay will be archived in the University of Alabama Hoole Special Collections Library.

“I’ve never won anything before,” said Ward. He said he now plans to compete in other essay contests to try to earn scholarship money.