Kurn Hattin’s mystery writing contest helps middle-schoolers explore the mysteries of their own lives
April 8, 2012 | Westminster, VT – On April 4, 2013, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children held its 12th Annual Ziggy Ostrowski Mystery Writing Contest Banquet. The two contest winners, 7th grader, Brianna Loiacono and 8th grader Evany Rodriguez, each received a $25 cash prize for their mystery stories. Also honored were finalists, 7th graders, Kayley Rogstad and Connor Towsley, and 8th graders Jahyde Bullard and Krysta Gottfriend, along with 8th grader D’Leanne Solovei, who won the 2013 Paul Gordon Memorial Prize, for her love of reading and writing. This year’s stories took themes inspired by the poetry of Robert Frost. The students and teachers were joined at the banquet by special guest poet, photographer, and Landmark College professor emeritus, Dr. Robert Fay.
Twelve years ago, writing coach Ziggy Ostrowski began the contest for middle school students at Kurn Hattin Homes. Ostrowski enlisted the help of English teacher, Kristie Lisai, and the two developed the contest with the goal of showing students that they can rise to challenges and achieve things which at first may seem out of reach. In 2005, when Ostrowski was ill with terminal cancer, he had an important task for Lisai, “Please keep the contest going.” Lisai has honored that wish, renaming the contest in honor of Ostrowski, and inviting many well-known authors, such as Archer Mayor, Karen Hesse, Jesse Haas, and Katherine Paterson, to attend the banquet and inspire Kurn Hattin’s young authors.
This year’s contest prompt, the first to involve poetry, was suggested by Dr. Fay, a personal friend of Robert Frost, who has been working on poetry and literature with Kurn Hattin students for the past year. The students chose one of five Frost poems and developed a mystery story around its theme. Lisai says the contest allows students to express themes that are close to their own hearts and experiences. Contest winner Evany Rodriguez chose “The Road Not Taken” and wrote about a young woman on the verge of making a difficult choice in life. “She has a secret, and no one knows,” said Rodriguez, “Inside, she wants to run. She takes that road at first, but then decides to come back and face everyone and be honest.” Finalist Kayley Rogstad said of the challenge of mystery writing, “It wasn’t too challenging; I liked it. My life has been kind of a mystery so far.”
A place of hope since 1894, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children provides a safe home and quality education for boys and girls, ages 6-15, whose families are experiencing a time of personal or financial need. Its mission: Kurn Hattin Homes transforms the lives of children and their families forever.