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STAFF PHOTO/BROOKE WILLIAMS Tunkhannock Area students recently wrote editorials for the “Let Your Voice Be Heard” contest. From left are first place winner Isaac Clark, second place winner Logan Kandrovy and third place winner Courtney Yuhas.

An editorial contest through the English department at Tunkhannock Area High School recently gave students an opportunity to voice their opinions on areas in need of change.

Through ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard,’ students were asked to write a concise editorial regarding a topic they care about.

Then a panel of teachers acting as judges determined the top three editorials.

Ellyn Harvey, a TA English teacher, said the contest was open to students in grades 9-12 and modeled after an annual student editorial writing contest at The New York Times.

The top three students, who are all eleventh graders, won prizes courtesy of Williams Energy.

First place winner Isaac Clark wrote “Cell Phones in the Classroom,” which focuses on the importance of implementing technology in schools to improve student learning.

“A school’s job is to prepare students for the future, and I think if they aren’t willing to prepare them for a future with technology, then they’re missing the mark,” Clark said.

After writing an essay for class about how the education system should be reformed after staying the same way for so long, Clark was inspired to write about one of the alleyways schools could take to make these changes.

“It was very enjoyable for me to sit down and analyze how we can make a difference in our schools,” he said.

In second place was Logan Kandrovy with her editorial “Voluntourism is Making a Difference, Just Not a Positive One.”

In the editorial, Kandrovy explained how mission trips to foreign countries are actually harmful to their economies and their people, and how these trips have become a marketing scam rather than an asset for people living in foreign countries.

“I’ve seen a growing trend on social media of people posting with orphan children and going on all these mission trips and it seems to only be benefitting them because we don’t take into account the emotional imprint we leave on people, especially in these environments,” Kandrovy said.

“I wanted to tie in how it’s not an aesthetic for your Instagram, it’s actually someone’s life,” she added.

Courtney Yuhas won a third place award for her editorial “What’s Slipping Through the Sex Ed Cracks,” in which she wrote about how students should not receive a strictly heterosexual sex education in school.

“It just makes it an equal platform and I feel that the queer youth should be able to have an understanding of safe sex within their community, the same as any other sexual orientation,” Yuhas said.

For Yuhas, the editorial was a way to send a message that “it’s OK to be gay” and only right that everyone is taught safe sex regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Everybody needs to have an understanding of what’s becoming a norm because the LGBTQ community is not going anywhere,” Yuhas said. “Especially within our town, there’s a lot of homophobia, and people should learn to be more accepting of something that someone else can’t change.”

The week before the contest, the students wrote argumentative essays, which sparked excitement about writing editorials.

Kandrovy said writing has always been a significant part of her life. She writes slam poetry with the local Breaking Ground Poets group and her life goal is to write a memoir.

Yuhas wants to major in journalism and minor in psychology, and possibly even write a book.

Clark, who also loves to write and has an interest in what it would be like to write a book, encouraged others to use opportunities to share their voice.

“You have a responsibility to stand up for what you believe in,” he said.

For Yuhas, opinion-writing is not only a way to have your opinion validated.

“But, it matters and it could change the world,” she said.

“Because we live in such a small, rural area, we need to make an effort to read other sources, even if it isn’t something we necessarily agree with,” Kandrovy added. “The only way to change the closed-mindedness is to open our own.”

Harvey said the English department finds it important to teach students how to write argumentatively in a professional and mature manner.

“It is imperative that they understand that argumentative writing is not the same as arguing,” she said. “In class, we have covered the importance of recognizing the value of the opposition’s stance and addressing it in a respectful manner.”