The Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA) has announced Caroline Lembright as the winner of its Overture Awards Essay Contest 2012: "An Underground Railroad Traveler." Caroline, chosen by four judges who are professional writers/historians/teachers, will be awarded a $250 prize for her essay, "Someone to Watch Over Me."
For the contest, thirty-five students submitted essays on the subject of the Underground Railroad, from the perspective of a young person their own age who might have traveled north to freedom via this system. Any Tri-state student in grades 6-9 for the 2011-12 school year was eligible for the contest.
Caroline Lembright is an eighth-grade student at Highlands Middle School in Fort Thomas, KY, where her advanced language arts class was studying the Underground Railroad. Ivy, the main character of Caroline's essay, was inspired by women in Caroline's life, as well as women in history. Through this piece, she conveys the strength and determination of not only those who made it to freedom, but also the horrors of slavery.
According to Caroline, "In a world where visual media reigns, great writing can be extremely impactful, and I hope to one day accomplish that. Writing to me is feeling brought to life. What you feel and what you make of those feelings is truly who you are. And that's why writing plays such a large role in my life. I have always loved creative and poetic writing, and feel extremely grateful for this opportunity. Slavery is a subject that has always shocked and awed me. And I feel that through this experience I have better grasped the horror that made up the lives of many slaves who lived in the United States and around the globe in this period of history."
Lisa Birkley, eighth-grade language arts teacher, and Kathleen Lemmons, teacher of gifted-and-talented students, teamed up to create a special unit that looked at the Underground Railroad in our area. "We did a great deal of preliminary research in the computer lab," said Mrs. Birkley. "We used videos, writing journals, a novel, and even made a freedom quilt to try to simulate the experience. We also had a traveling trunk full of artifacts, which the Freedom Center let us borrow for a few days. The students worked on this unit for about four weeks, and the culminating event was the essay. They were all very interested in this time in our local history."
Essay submissions were judged on the following criteria:
Originality: the essay topic is approached with creativity and imagination.
Quality of content: the essay is presented clearly and its material is well organized, well developed and accurate.
Style: the essay has a clear structure with a title, introduction, body and conclusion. Paragraphs are used correctly, and punctuation, spelling and grammar are correct.
Footnotes were not required, but a bibliography was highly recommended.
To read Caroline's essay, visit