A project that a Dana Hills High School student did for extra class credit has earned her a national honor. Kaitie Pappert is one of 10 winners of this year's National Conversation Essay Contest, sponsored by Voice of America and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"I was really surprised when they called," Pappert, a 16-year-old junior, said of the contest's organizers. "I never entered the contest to win. I entered because it was for extra credit."
Her teachers were not so surprised. "Kaitie is just a fabulous girl," said Nancy McIntyre, Pappert's teacher for an advanced placement U.S. history class. "She has always been an incredible writer with lots of imagination and creativity, but she's also a great historian."
The contest invited high school students to submit essays of 350 words or less answering the question, "What Does it Mean to Be an American?" The focus could be on racial, political or religious ideas that unite the country.
In Pappert's essay, she described a scene she witnessed on a New York City subway train when a young boy gave a quarter to a beggar. "I didn't know how to react to the man," said Pappert, who was 13 at the time. "However, the boy looked past the man's looks and dress and just saw that he was in need."
The 10 finalists will travel to Washington to attend an awards ceremony March 14 and to record their essays for international broadcast over Voice of America.