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Maize HS sophomore wins September contest

Maize High School’s Mary McDermott won first place in KSPA’s September Story of the Month contest, which focused on editorials.

University of Kansas judges praised McDermott’s editorial “Backpacks Sent Packing” by writing: “It addresses policy and provides a solution that would help students,” and “It’s nice to compare the policy to other schools’ policies.”

Here is the full list of winners and links to their stories:

  • First Place: Mary McDermott, Maize HS, Play news magazine, “Backpacks Sent Packing”; (pasted below)
  • Second Place: Tim Shedor, Shawnee Mission East HS, The Harbinger, “Seniors need to forget last year’s mistakes”:
  • Third Place: Jessie Hardesty and Stuti Desai, Shawnee Mission West HS, The Epic, “Green is the new black and gold”;
  • Honorable Mention: Phoebe Unterman, Shawnee Mission East HS, The Harbinger, “License to text”;
  • Honorable Mention: Emily Donnell, Lawrence HS, The Budget, “Like Free State’s.”

Twenty-one students from 6A and 5A schools submitted entries. However, there were no entries from 4A, 3A, 2A or 1A schools, so no awards for those classes were given. Also, judges considered several entries more appropriate for a column-writing contest than an editorial contest. Column writing is February’s Story of the Month contest.

Next month’s contest deadline is Oct. 30 for feature stories, which is defined as personality profiles, issue-oriented stories, narrative storytelling and other “evergreen” stories. Stories can be written for newspapers, news magazines, Web sites or yearbooks. The contest entry form is under the links at the right side of the page. All entries are $5 per student, and each school is limited to two entries.

Here is Mary McDermott’s winning entry:

Backpacks Sent Packing

Backpack policy should be altered to better fit needs of student body

Backpacks are forbidden from hallways and class­rooms during school hours.

They have been banned for nine years, but in recent years enforcement has been lacking. However, this year administrators are cracking down on the policy and are not allowing backpacks at all.

If students are caught in possession of a backpack dur­ing school, they have to take it to their locker and will most likely be counted tardy. After being counted tardy three times, the student has to serve a one-hour detention. The consequences become more severe the more tardies accumulate.

Because of this, students are now forced to use alterna­tives such as draw-string bags or large purses. But back­packs feature several compartments that are better for tot­ing books and papers from class to class.

Compared to draw-string bags, messenger bags or purs­es, backpacks are superior because the strongest muscles in the body – the back and abdominal muscles – support all of the backpack’s weight.

When worn properly, a backpack’s weight is distributed evenly across the body, creating fewer health problems than a draw-string bag or purse.

Backpacks also prevent students from having to carry their five-pound textbooks in their arms and having to stop repeatedly at their lockers.

We realize backpacks produce problems. They clut­ter classrooms and crowd hallways which in turn creates safety concerns.

“If there was an actual fire, we don’t want kids stum­bling over backpacks in aisles,” Principal Mike Bonner said.

We understand this problem, but also realize it can be resolved. Teachers could provide a designated corner for students to leave their bags or students could store back­packs under their desks. This reduces clutter in the aisles and prevents students from texting in their bags. Hallways have also become less crowded, due to the school split, al­lowing more room for backpacks.

Two other 6A schools, Northwest and Derby, allow backpacks during school hours.

The administrators have compromised by allowing draw-string bags and purses for this year.

However, we believe that there are ways backpacks could benefit the student body without overcrowding. Be­cause of this we believe MHS should review the backpack policy this spring for the 2010-11 school year.

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