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Power of the Pen: CCS Writes Again

Photo by bizmac via Flickr.There are only 19 students in the entire seventh grade class at Kidron’s Central Christian School (CCS). On Saturday, March 17, five of those students, plus one eighth grader, proved their writing talents against 32 other schools at Clear Fork Middle School in Belleville, in this year’s Power of the Pen Regional tournaments. 

CCS’s team of writers - eighth-grader Elise Murray, of Dalton, and seventh-graders, Hallie Bischoff, of Apple Creek, Elaina Lowe, of Orrville, Annalena Rottman, of Millersburg, Emmy Rupp, of Smithville and Libby Ryan, of Millersburg - wrote their way to second place in their region. What’s more, two of those writers, Rupp and Bischoff, placed individually against 83 other writers, earning them each a slot at State Finals at The College of Wooster May 24 and 25.

“We are so blessed with this,” said Allison Seymour, CCS’s seventh and eighth grade Language Arts teacher and POP coach. “We have some very talented writers at CCS. For such a small class to have done so well is significant.”

At each competition, writers are given a prompt and 40 minutes to create a captivating story from beginning to end. At Regionals, Emmy Rupp’s favorite consisted of a single word -”outnumbered.” Rupp composed a fictional piece based on her experience of waiting to find out whether she had placed at District competition. Her writing earned ninth place and an overall Superior rating. Rupp is thrilled with the outcome. 

“It helps me to know that other people think my writing is good,” Rupp said. 

Hallie Bischoff came in 18th, earning an overall Honorable rating. Bischoff’s favorite prompt, too, was “outnumbered,” inspiring her to write about a teacher whose best-laid plans are challenged by a classroom of stir-crazy students eager to get outside as spring break approaches. Eventually, Bischoff said, the teacher relents and her lesson plans go, literally, out the window. 

How does Bischoff feel about securing a slot at State? 

“I am so unbelievably excited,” she said. “I’m in shock, actually.”

The Power of the Pen was founded in 1986 when Lorraine B. Merrill, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Nordonia Junior High, returned to teaching after years of taking a hiatus to raise her own children. 

“I was absolutely shocked by the changes since I’d been away,” Merrill said. “I saw for the first time that no one took seriously the level of intelligence and talent these students had. The schools were merely teaching parts of speech all over again. I knew students were capable of so much more.”

Merrill took the challenge and created Power of the Pen. 

“The school allowed me the freedom to create my own program and fly with ideas that convinced me that every child who sits in a classroom has a story to tell. Once they find a voice, there’s no stopping them.”

After the first year, Merrill was awarded the Christa McAuliffe fellowship and a one-year sabbatical with a salary paid by the U.S. Department of Education to develop POP into a state program, and in one year, POP soared across the state of Ohio and remains the only program of its kind in the country.

Now, more than 7,500 students participate in each year’s competition. Each season, more than 25,000 pieces of student writing are produced that would not have otherwise existed. 

Merrill said CCS should be very proud of their accomplishments. 

“It is extremely significant for Central Christian’s students to have done as well as they did, given the total number of contestants. Emmy Rupp has a very excellent chance at State based on her quality points and Hallie Bischoff earned a good solid score, clearly second place against all of her classmates.”

Merrill was especially pleased that Seymour’s work helped earn the team their place. 

“Allison Seymour has done a wonderful job,” Merrill said. “She’s on the Power of the Pen staff, comes to the state committee meetings, and handles the sales of T-shirts in the tent. That’s all indicative of someone who loves the program. I was very happy to see she did well at Regionals. Schools should be very proud of teachers who give up their Saturdays to participate in Power of the Pen.” 

So what’s next for Central’s POP competitors? Preparing for State competition in May. Rupp is also writing a poem to submit, an option only available for writers who qualify for State.

“We’re going to be competing against some of the best of the best of the best,” Rupp said. “That makes me very nervous.” 

“I’m definitely going to write double the prompts and get as much practice as I can,” Bischoff said. “And do a lot of reading, because reading goes hand-in-hand with writing; you can’t have one without the other.”

Power of the Pen tracks the achievements of students who do well at competition. They’ve found that their success now is indicative of their future writing success. 

“Our identification of the best and brightest writers in the state of Ohio is really on the mark,” Merrill said, “because they go on to do extremely well in high school and college.”

As for Merrill, it’s possible that she gets her greatest sense of accomplishment not during the competition, but after, when all rounds are over.

“What’s really a hoot is when, at State, after the last round has ended, you see them sitting outside under the trees. And what are they doing? Still writing. It’s a lovely sight to see, when you find a writer. It’s a pure gem, as beautiful as can be.”

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