Cranston student among recipients of foundation’s writing awards

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Anaissa Grenier of Cranston is this year’s $500 second-place winner in the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation’s (KDMF) Essay Contest.

Grenier is an 11th-grade student at Cranston High School East. She won for her work, “Whatever Shade Darkness Is.”

Coming in first place was Narragansett High School 11th-grader Emily McNeiece, receiving a $1,000 prize for her work, “Gravity.” This year’s third-place $350 prize was won by Classical High School 11th-grader Stephanie Ortiz of Providence for her work, “You are Perfectly Imperfect.”

For more than 10 years, KDMF has awarded money and prizes to students who placed in the annual writing contest. Katie was an avid writer.

“After our daughter Katie, age 13, died at the hands of a drunken driver, we wanted to find a way to carry on her legacy and keep her spirit alive,” Meg DeCubellis said in a press release. “As the years progressed, we were fortunate enough to receive an outpouring of support, and the writing contest is one way for us to give back to others and also raise awareness on important topics.”

Bruce DeSilva, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, served as the celebrity judge for this year’s contest.

“After spending many years editing the work of some of the best journalists in the country, I didn’t know what to expect when I was asked to judge the writing of high school students – but it certainly wasn’t this. These young people can write,” said DeSilva, who has also won both the Edgar and Macavity Awards.

DeSilva’s book reviews have been published in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Publishers Weekly, The Strand Magazine, and scores of other print and online publications. Previously, he was a journalist for 40 years, most recently as writing coach worldwide for the Associated Press, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize, including the Polk Award (twice), the Livingston (twice) and the Pulitzer.

This year’s topic was “Positive Change.” Entrants were asked to create a negative situation and find a way to take the story in a positive direction.

DeSilva wrote about Grenier’s submission, “Whatever Shade Darkness Is” and stated that: “What could have been just another ‘undervalued introvert learns to blossom’ story is enlivened by a unique perspective. The characters are engaging and deftly crafted.”

Grenier wrote of two boys coming to terms with the secrecy of their relationship and how Josh, the main character, finds his voice after an argument between his father and his boyfriend, Aiden, takes place at a family dinner. For the first time, Josh backs Aiden and comes to terms with his own sexuality and his relationship. He takes his first stand by not agreeing with his father and siding with Aiden.

“I chose to write about sexuality,” Grenier said. “So many people are bigoted and the topic should be more talked about and discussed. In my essay I tackled a sensitive issue, bringing the first step at positive resolution to the story.”

Grenier has been writing since fourth grade, and her writing includes poetry, short stories and a personal blog.

The KDMF was also proud to announce that, for the third year, AAA Northeast has joined forces with KDMF as the corporate sponsor for the contest.

The award ceremony was held May 18 at the Warwick Mall. Television reporter, WPRO radio anchor and children’s book author Laura Clarizio emceed the event.

“I was happy to participate,” Grenier said. “And super excited that I won second place.”

Grenier plans on keeping up with her writing, and her goal is to pursue her love of short films. She hopes to work on script writing and eventually produce short films on her own.

The KDMF and AAA Northeast presented monetary awards to the three top winners and the student receiving an honorable mention. Additionally, professionally created posters with the winners’ names and writing entries will remain on display at the mall through Memorial Day. For more information about the contest and annual scholarships that the KDMF awards, visit the foundation’s website at www.kdmf.org.

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