Two Catonsville High School juniors' editorials were recently published on the New York Times' website.
Eric Vogt wrote one of 10 winning essays in the newspaper's Editorial Contest titled, "Cutting it Short", while Hannah Llorin received an honorable mention for her essay, "The Murky Ethics of Athletic Prosthetics."
Both were among 45 students recognized from 5,000 students across the country for their participation in the contest, according to a Baltimore County Public Schools press release.
The contest asked students to: choose a topic they care about, gather evidence from both New York Times and non-New York Times sources, and write a concise editorial in 450 words or less to persuade readers of their point of view, the organization's website said.
Contest winners were announced April 23 on the company's website, however, they only learned recently of their accomplishments.
"I think it was really nice for the end of the year because junior year is really stressful for everybody. At the end, you can kind of feel discouraged and it was really nice to see something come out of your work…It was nice to get something back that was positive," Vogt said.
Writing the short form essay was mandatory for 11th grade AP English classes taught by Jo-Ellen O'Dell and Melanie Coates.
When O'Dell saw the essay contest on the newspaper's website, she decided to use it as inspiration for a research paper assignment.
Hannah said even though the contest was a class requirement, she liked participating.
"I would have done it anyway, because I really think having a voice as a student is really important," she said. "I really enjoyed the short form format and the way they set it up."
Vogt's essay discussed why schools should shift their focus from teaching long form traditional essay writing to short form writing, which he believes is more efficient.
"Teaching efficiency will allow students to take full advantage of modern communication. Without wasting any breath, high schools must turn their primary focus towards the short form, and knock the traditional essay from its long-held dominance," he wrote.
He chose the topic because he felt ill-equipped to write a short form essay, he said.
"I chose the topic writing in the short form, because I felt I wasn't prepared to do it," Vogt said. "So I chose to write about how we're not prepared by the school system to write a short essay."
Vogt said he often writes two to three page essays in school, so writing in a short form is challenging.
"I believe that the short form is becoming increasingly important because communication is becoming more rapid," he said.
Vogt lives in Catonsville with parents Eric and Kimberly Vogt and his two sisters, Julie and Joy. He is a member of the executive board of the Student Information Technology Club and participates in cybersecurity competitions.
Llorin said she chose the topic of athletic prosthetics because, "I looked at the others and felt they were really subjective and thought they could be really wishy washy and emotional. I wanted something that I could back up with scientific and empirical evidence and something that was really relevant."
She used Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprint runner who has double below-knee amputations and won gold medals in the 2012 Summer Paralympics, as an example to support an argument for why athletes with bionic limbs should be "excluded from high-level academic competition," according to her essay.
Llorin lives in Catonsville with parents, Mary Anne and Oscar Llorin, and her twin 15-year-old brothers Jordan and Liam, who are freshman at Catonsville High. She is a member of the Inkling Book Club, National Honor Society and Math Honor Society.
O'Dell said she was particularly proud of her students for winning a contest with expectations of "adult" writing.
"Unlike other contests, this one had the particular expectation of adult writing," O'Dell said. "They are just mature thinkers — they are worldly intellectuals and I'm glad they were recognized for that."
Both essays can be read at by clicking here.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun