Steinmetz wins essay contest

Hannah Drake, Layout Editor


Students in Minnesota this past year had a special opportunity. The organization BestPrep had partnered with the Educational Forum and organized an essay writing competition. Stillwater sophomore Nora Steinmetz was entered into this event and won 1st place out of all Minnesota high school students (grades 9-11).

The contest asked entrants to write an essay based on the ideas shared in the book Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music, which was written by Grammy award-winning singer, activist and humanitarian Angélique Kidjo. As a winner, Steinmetz and her social studies teacher Sara Damon were invited to a private reception with Kidjo at BestPrep’s Educational Forum last November in Minneapolis.

“I thought of it as a normal assignment,” Steinmetz said. “Everyone in my class had sent their essays into BestPrep, and soon after I found out I had placed in first,” Steinmetz said. “I was a little surprised that I was chosen, because it just started out as a class assignment,” she added.

The essay contest was a meaningful way for students to synthesize what we had learned about girls education and economic development throughout the AP Human Geography course.”

— Sara Damon

The 9th grade AP Human Geography students were asked to write about the value of education. During the second semester of the school year, the course teacher Sara Damon made this essay an assignment for all of her students. Steinmetz took that class in hopes it would bring great things in her future, college wise.

“The essay contest was a meaningful way for students to synthesize what we had learned about girls education and economic development throughout the AP Human Geography course,” Damon said.

The top 20 students had the opportunity to meet and participate in a question-and-answer session with Kidjo. With Steinmetz winning first place, she had received a 13” MacBook Air and was also presented her certificate along with the “Kristie” award.

“I definitely didn’t expect any of this,” Steinmetz said.

The students essays centered on education world wide, focusing on topics such as education in the United States, the value of education around the world and what challenged the students themselves face in their own educational journey.

BestPrep’s mission is to prepare students with business, career and financial literacy skills through hands-on experiences. The submitted essays were read and judged by a group of business and education volunteers looking for quality and creativity.

“Right before I had to go up on stage, I was pretty terrified to read my essay, but once the first couple of words came out, I just forgot that there was anybody listening and it was really kind of exciting,” Steinmetz said.

Damon announced the winners of the contest via text. When Steinmetz received that message she was on a field trip at Valley Fair, and that made her day a whole lot better. “When I found out I won, I just didn’t believe it,” Steinmetz said.

The students and their teacher, Damon, were invited to a private reception with Kidjo and Rick King of Thomson Reuters at the Educational Forum. The awards presentation was part of BestPrep’s Educational Forum, which featured a dinner with Kidjo and 800 business professionals. Kidjo is a Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter from Benin, Africa. She is also an activist and has been named one of the Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World by The Guardian. The students who attended the reception had the honor of formally meeting Kidjo and attending a question-and-answer session with her.

“My essay is all about why education is important and how its importance is the same and how it’s different in different parts of the world,” Steinmetz said.