student-writing-judge-Nikky-FinneySeven Beaufort county high school students ­– six from Beaufort High School and one from Battery Creek High School – were named finalists in the fourth annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. On March 17 they gathered at the University of South Carolina in Columbia to participate in the second round of the writing contest.


Finalists from Beaufort High School include juniors Sophie Bellomy, Natoria Smalls, and Sarah Suber, and seniors Morgan Alexander, Alexandra Batista, and Jessica Elkins. The finalist from Battery Creek High School is junior Amanda Taylor. student-writing-judge-Pam-Durban

Their work will be included in Writing South Carolina: Selections from the Fourth High School Writing Contest, published by the University of South Carolina Press. The anthology will also include contributions by the contest’s grand judges. The judges, both South Carolina natives, are acclaimed short story writer Pam Durban (right) and Nikky Finney (top), whose Head Off & Split won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011.

“We’re excited to recognize these talented young writers and thank their teachers,” said Aida Rogers, who coordinates the contest for the South Carolina Honors College and the University of South Carolina. “To be published at such an early age is a very worthy achievement.”

The contest topic was “How should we improve the state of South Carolina?” High school juniors and seniors in public, private, and homeschools were invited to respond in 750 words or less in the genre of their choice – poetry, fiction, essay, drama. With hundreds of submissions and 71 finalists, this year’s contest has tripled in size from the first one in 2013.

In the second round of the competition, finalists had 40 minutes to write about a topic delivered that day. First, second, and third-place winners in the junior and senior classes will receive monetary prizes.

The first-place senior wins $1,000 and the Walter Edgar Award, funded by SCHC alumnus Thad Westbrook and named for the noted South Carolina historian, author, and retired USC professor. The first-place junior wins $1,000 and the Dorothy Skelton Williams Award, funded by an anonymous donor and named for the late Anderson county elementary school principal. Second-place winners in both classes win $500, and third-place winners win $250.

“I taught college freshmen for many years, and I’ve learned our young people have interesting things to say,” said Steven Lynn, dean of the SCHC and founder of the contest. “These students are our future leaders, and it’s important to understand their viewpoints. They could have solutions – or the seeds to solutions – to the problems we are facing now and in the future.”

Lynn founded the contest in 2013 and is sponsored by the South Carolina Honors College and the University of South Carolina Press. Presenting partners include the Pat Conroy Literary Center, the South Carolina State Library, the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Sciences, and Young Palmetto Books, an imprint of USC Press.