“The World We Can Change”; Freshman writer wins award


Freshman Katie Vanarsdale submitted an entry in the Harford County level of the Reflections Competition, submitting in the Literature category. She won the Award of Excellence on March 8, 2023.

      The writer shared that she was excited and shocked when she had learned that she won. Shockingly, she found out about her win through her mom via Facebook.

      Vanarsdale mentioned that it had “been a while since the competition, so [she] just assumed [she hadn’t] placed.” Now that the original surprise of winning has surpassed, the student acknowledged that she now feels “happy and proud of myself.” However, the initial “shock” and “excitement” is still pondering.

       Vanarsdale explained that the first time she really remembers writing outside of school was “in the third grade,” and she also recalls the first time she began writing for contests was in the third grade as well.

     The Reflections Program allows “students to express themselves through their gifts & talents in the arts,” according to the Harford County Council of PTA’s website. The program gives Maryland students an opportunity to express themselves in six different arts areas. One winner is chosen from each category, and Vanarsdale won the Award of Excellence in the category of Literature.

     This is not the first time Vanarsdale has won and submitted for the reflections contest- the freshman comments that she has been doing the contest since elementary school, and “[She] always enjoys doing it, though that may be because [she has] won multiple times,” she shared with a laugh. “I’m on the lookout for [the competition] each year. I initially saw a paper for it in the English hallway, [and] heard about it on the announcements.”

     The prompt for this year’s reflections contest was “Show your voice,” and as Vanarsdale explained, it was “difficult to initially come up with an idea [to fit the prompt].” However, the writer eventually created her award winning essay, “The World We Can Change.”

     “I tried to think of all the things wrong in the world that I’d talk about with other people, and [I] just started writing about things I’d seen or heard or concerned me.” She explains as her inspiration for the winning piece. The writer also commented that she hoped she would “encourage others” through her essay, “even if nobody else would read it.”

     Vanarsdale finishes with a word of advice to aspiring writers, or those who are already writers. “Don’t force it,” she starts. “The words will come to you, but trying to force the words won’t help.” She also adds, “Just start writing. Stop thinking about making your writing perfect and just write whatever crosses your mind. You don’t have to write something perfect the first time; get your thoughts down and then review it afterwards.”