For two hours' of effort, Todd Dickensheets not only earned an A on his speech, but also won first place in a statewide literacy writing contest.

For his speech, the Westminster High School sophomore wrote an essay about how a "Crack House," modeled after Halloween haunted houses, would scare youngsters away from drug use.

Instead of "ghosts, vampires and maniacs with chain saws," the display would have actors portraying drug pushers and users. The last room of the house would have a coffin with a corpse in it.

"This isthe last stage and, hopefully, will prove that drugs kill," the 15-year-old wrote.

One of his teachers submitted the essay in the third annual "Maryland, You Are Beautiful" literacy writing contest. Thisyear's theme, "Say No To Drugs!" More than 150,000 students, kindergarten through grade 12, competed.

Todd placed first among those ingrades nine through 12.

"I was surprised," said Todd, who plays on the JV baseball and football teams. "I really didn't think anythingof the essay."

In his essay, Todd noted that a "Crack House" has existed in Baltimore for more than two years. He suggested that one should be placed in every county of the state.

"For kids to learn, there has to be a purpose or something fun to make them interested. This project is a great way to show the kids of today the horrors of drug abuse and the uselessness of starting drugs. The 'Crack House' gets the point across, far better than sitting in a classroom," he wrote.

Todd, the son of JoAnn and Richard Dickensheets of Westminster,will be among the 12 statewide winners honored at an awards ceremonyin the Governor's Reception Room this month.

"I thought he did a nice job," said his mother. "He's never written anything that's won something. We're proud of him."

Todd, like the other first-place winners, will receive a weekend for four in Annapolis and four complimentary passes to Kings Dominion Theme Park.

"The excitement and positive results generated by this contest will continue to make an impact throughout Maryland's school system," said Floraine B. Applefeld, director of the contest.

Todd, too, hoped his essay would have an impact.

"I hope it helps somebody."

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