O’Rourke classes participate in essay contest


Mali Downing

Essays for the contest, the winner wins $100-$1200 depending on their grade. Image by Mali Downing.

Hannah Sales, Staff Reporter

If you had a way to unite our country, what would you do?

That is the topic for this year’s Americanism Essay Contest, sponsored by The American Legion Department of Illinois. This is a competition in which students write an essay based on their given prompt. Riverside Brookfield High School is participating in this state-wide writing competition, sponsored by English teacher Daniel O’Rourke. O’Rourke is requiring all students in his English classes to participate. 

 “The educational purpose of the competition is to provide an authentic writing opportunity to my students,” O’Rourke said. 

When asked if this was the first time he had entered into the contest, O’Rourke said “No, I entered my students in this annual contest in the past. And I’ve had winners.”

Essays are accepted from students in the 7th to 12th-grade school level range. The first place winners earn a cash prize of $100 to $1200 depending on their grade level.

The essay has a 500-word limit and there are three categories to judging each essay: Content, organization of subject matter, and correct usage of grammar.

When asked what he expected from this year’s essays, O’Rourke said, “Great student essays with insightful, fresh ideas—hopefully absent of ideological regurgitation.”

The focus of the essays each year always surrounds Americanism, meaning an allegiance to the United States. 

According to O’Rourke, he hopes that his students will, “Grow in their awareness of what we writing teachers mean by ‘rhetorical situation’ and I want them to come away from this assignment with a clearer understanding that real writers write within a particular situation and make strategic writing choices based on that situation.” 

The essay assignment for the project is due by January 30, and the final day to submit for the competition is February 7.