Kent State University’s College of Education, Health and Human Services will host this year’s Power of the Pen regional competition on Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Bowman and Satterfield halls on the Kent Campus. The competition challenges seventh and eighth graders from around the state to answer writing prompts. The top 50 percent of students from district competitions attend the regional level at Kent State, which has hosted the event since 1991.
This is the first year the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State will host the event. Alexa Sandmann, director of Kent State’s School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies, is helping to coordinate this year’s event.
“It really made sense for us to be the ones to give this a home and support it,” Sandmann said. “This is the caliber of students we want at Kent State. It’s really exciting.”
At the regional event held on campus, 160 students will write three pieces in response to prompts. Participants will not know the topics until the event.
Lorraine Merrill, a retired English teacher from Nordonia, created the program in 1986 and has served as the director ever since. Merrill received a Christa McAuliffe fellowship award to begin Power of the Pen and a sabbatical leave by the Ohio State and U.S. Department of Education. Funding simultaneously came from the George Gund Foundation, the Nord Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the Stark County Foundation.
Merrill said the Power of the Pen is always an exciting and influential event.
“When these youngsters are responding to a prompt, it is competitive and, like sports, it becomes very exciting,” Merrill said. “They have to be honest to be good writers, and they need to have the courage to talk about their own experiences.”
Sandmann said one of the reasons Kent State hosts the Power of the Pen is to introduce visiting students to the campus and its offerings.
“We’re building on this legacy,” Sandmann said. “I’m hopeful these students will see what a wonderful, exciting place it is. This highlights the excellence Kent State is known for.”
Each year, students draft 25,000 pieces of writing for Power of the Pen events statewide. Of this number, hundreds of writers have been identified annually for publication, awards and scholarships. In the three decades since the program came into being, Power of the Pen students have garnered positions as publishers, reporters, book and newspaper editors.
“Finding that voice is everything, no matter if you live in the inner city or the suburbs,” Merrill said. “Everyone has a story to tell, and these kids write remarkably well.”
Students compete for individual as well as team awards. The awards include trophies donated by University Communications and Marketing at Kent State. All attending students also will receive a special notebook commemorating the competition and their successes.
For more information about Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, visit www.kent.edu/ehhs.