Essay winner started with a single cactus - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Essay winner started with a single cactus

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Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2008 2:59 pm | Updated: 8:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It was a cactus along the road from Phoenix to Flagstaff that inspired Shayna Steingard’s Polly Rosenbaum Writing Contest essay. Steingard’s family travels up north a couple of times a year, and she noticed that a particular cactus along the way was always different — sometimes just growing taller, other times sprouting a new arm.

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The Chaparral High School sophomore used that cactus as a metaphor for Arizona’s youth in her contest entry, which fit the theme, “How the Character of Arizona’s Youth Affects Arizona’s Future.”

“I just wrote about how the youth has to find their own niche,” Steingard said. “They have to grow and develop and then they affect the future.”

It must have caught the judges’ attention, because she won first place in her age division.

Steingard also won second place in this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest, which is put on each year by Arizona State University. She used her grandfather as inspiration for that essay, which had the topic, “Going Beyond the Dream.”

Steingard’s grandfather wanted to be a writer, but his mother prompted him to become a doctor instead, she said. So he went into sports medicine.

“It was a whole new dream,” Steingard said. “He’s been really successful.”

Steingard entered both contests as a requirement for her high school English class and said she was surprised to place in both.

Contest essays aren’t Steingard’s favorite type of writing — that would be the journal she started keeping a couple of years ago after a friend prompted her to chronicle the funny stories she always had about her classmates.

“It’s actually one of the ways that I unwind. I keep a journal and jot down stuff I don’t feel like telling anyone else,” Steingard said. “Putting it down on paper gives me a chance to reorganize my thoughts.”

Even with her writing talents, Steingard said she’s still trying to find her own niche. She might be interested in following both her parents and grandpa into medicine, or she may become a teacher.

This summer, she will travel with a camp group to Israel for six weeks. In the meantime, she’s happy to fill her days listening to music, hanging out with friends and doing volunteer work.

In fact, Steingard was recently elected as next year’s secretary for her school’s Interact Club, a service organization affiliated with Rotary International.

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