STAHS Student wins prestigious Writing Award

STAHS Student wins prestigious Writing Award
Posted on 06/14/2023
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A photo of Reese Benson

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Reese Benson can add a prestigious provincial award to their resume, after the Grade 8 student won the Grade 7-8 Nonfiction category of the provincial Ontario English Catholic Teachers (OECTA) Young Authors Awards.

“I was really excited about it,” said Benson. “I wasn’t expecting to win. It was on a whim [that I submitted it] because I wrote the essay for a school project back in September. My teacher really liked it and when the announcement for the contest came around he asked if I wanted to edit it a little bit and submit it. It was a really good piece and he thought I had a chance to win.”

The piece entitled “Should Our School Have Gender- Neutral Washrooms?” was a persuasive essay about adding gender neutral bathrooms to St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Benson said that they were able to pick a topic of choice so they chose something that was important to them.

“This is something I’ve wanted to bring up because I think it’s an important topic to talk about. It draws a lot from my own experiences here as a trans student,” they said.

The Young Authors Awards celebrates the writing of students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, who submit short stories, poems, and nonfiction articles across the province. That meant Benson’s piece had some stiff competition from across Ontario. They said the hardest part however, was putting it out locally in the first place.

“The hardest part would be the confidence to get that message out there. It is a topic that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. It’s hard enough for me sometimes mentioning what it’s about because I never know what people will think about it,” they said.

However, after lots of research into gender neutral washrooms at universities and colleges across North America and a grade of 100%, Benson found the courage to submit the essay for the provincial competition.

While graduation and post-secondary education is awhile off, Benson said they would jump at the chance to continue writing in the future.

“I’ve been writing pretty much as soon as I picked up a pencil,” they said. “It’s always been a fun activity for me and I take a lot of pride in my writing. If I was given an opportunity in University to take it further I’d absolutely go for that.”

To see a full list of winners and to read Benson's full essay click here.

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