Two Bradwell Institute students walked away with a combined total of $10,000 in scholarships after earning first place spots at the 17th annual Brewton-Parker Writing Conference.
Senior Anthony Brown and sophomore Damica Roberson won their writing categories at the conference Oct. 27 held at Brewton-Parker.
BI English teacher Marilyn Hampton took 41 students to the college, where they joined more than 100 students in ninth through 12th grade to learn more about writing. Students were taught about a specific genre and then challenged to write about a topic. First place in each category earned $1,000 and the overall winner won $8,000.
Brown won for children’s writing, winning $1,000, and Roberson won for parody and was the overall winner, earning $9,000.
Roberson said she chose parody because it sounded interesting.
"We learned how to take something that annoys you and form it into something that already exists," Roberson said.
Students were given an hour and a half to write their pieces.
Roberson said she was conflicted at first because she didn’t know what to write about and didn’t want to waste time thinking. Her instructor talked about President Donald Trump before the session started, so Roberson decided to do her topic on Trump.
"I decided to do mine on Donald Trump and I used the Hunger Games and called it the Twitter Games," Roberson said.
Brown decided to write about something he was familiar with—children. He has three nieces and a nephew and knows how much they like to play and draw.
The instructor showed the class examples of children’s books for ages 1 to 10. When the class started writing, Brown got concerned.
"When everyone else was writing their stories their’s was long paragraphs and pages," Brown said. "And I didn’t know what to do, so I drew pictures and wrote short stories about art."
Brown drew random pictures and wrote about art in rhymed sentences. He initially felt bad because everyone else had long stories, but his work was exactly what the instructor was looking for.
"When I got the certificate, she said ‘You’re the only one that got what I said about a children’s book.’ Everyone wrote middle school grade level instead of elementary," he said.
The winners were announced at a ceremony and each winner was on stage to receive a certificate.
Brown couldn’t believe he won.
"I thought he was just playing. I didn’t believe it because before I had walked up there and tried to take someone else’s certificate, just playing around, and as I was walking back to my seat he called my name," Brown said.
After the initial shock wore off Brown wondered how his mother would take the news of his win. He said she didn’t believe him at first, then thought it was for maybe $200.
"But when I showed her the certificate she hung it up on the wall, telling everybody, and when I got back from work all my family knew," he said.
Roberson thought her chances of winning for parody were good. She recalled other students in the class goofing off during the assignment. She wasn’t initially surprised to learn she won and said it eventually sunk in as she stood there with the other winners.
While on stage Roberson noticed her name on another certificate. She forgot there was a second place overall winner and thought she won second.
"They called the other guy’s name and then I was like ‘What? I really got like $9,000?’ When he handed it to me all I could say was wow. It was surreal," Roberson said.
She told her dad about winning $1,000 and he was proud of her. When she showed him the $8,000 certificate, she said he laughed, cheered and gave her a hug.
Roberson is still thinking about her future career. She considered journalism when she was younger then thought of becoming a veterinarian. Roberson said the workshop has opened her eyes to a possible career in writing.
Brown is still undecided but is leaning toward graphic design. He’s taken an interest in criminal justice and the military but believes "if I do know one thing it’s art, so I might go into that career."
Brown and Roberson encouraged other students to attend the conference next year.
"I think other students should go because you don’t know what can happen and it could be you winning the scholarships. It’s a great opportunity to open your eyes and see what you can do," Roberson said.
Hampton said all the students had a good time. They received T-shirts and got a tour of the campus.
"They said they had a good time and next year they will be the winners. This was Bradwell’s first time so a lot of people were like ‘Who’s Bradwell? Where are you?’ They never heard of us, so I was very proud. Bradwell showed up and showed out," Hampton said.
Hampton believes opportunities, such as the conference, are a good way to show what smaller colleges can offer students.