This year, English Fest has Southern accents

A contingent of South Carolinians is making its way here.
YOUNGSTOWN -- By the time you read this, 13 South Carolina teen-agers and two teachers -- jammed shoulder to shoulder in a passenger van -- should be closing in on Youngstown.
The eighth-graders from League Academy of Communication Arts in Greenville, S.C., are expected to arrive in Youngstown late this evening to attend the Youngstown State University English Festival on Friday.
They will be the first pupils from outside the greater Mahoning and Shenango valleys region to participate in the three-day event, now in its 24th year.
"They are unbelievably excited," teacher Bekki Camden said Wednesday from her classroom in South Carolina. "A lot of them have never even been out of the South, so it's quite an experience for them."
Attracts more than 3,000
The festival, which began Wednesday and runs through Friday, attracts more than 3,000 pupils from 160 schools in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
Dr. Gary Salvner, festival co-chairman, said the South Carolina contingent could be the first of many out-of-state pupils to start coming to the annual festival.
"This is sort of a pilot to see how it goes," he said. "We've certainly wanted to do this for a number of years."
The concern, however, is space. The festival, which fills nearly every nook and cranny of YSU's student center for three days, has become increasingly popular and already limits the number of pupils.
"We don't want to start crowding our own students out," Salvner said.
Camden said she first heard about the festival last summer while on a fellowship at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont.
"What caught my eye mainly is that it gives students a good reason to read more," she said.
When Camden returned to South Carolina, she presented the idea to her eighth-graders at League Academy, a public magnet school.
"They were extremely excited, and I knew I had to go through with it," she said.
To attend, pupils must read seven books on the festival's book list. At the festival, they participate in a variety of workshops and competitions, including presentations by many of the books' authors.
"I'm really excited about seeing the authors," said Caitlin Clark, one of the South Carolina eighth-graders who will be at the festival. "I don't know exactly what's going to be up there, but it sounds really fun."
Pupils washed cars and sold chocolate, jewelry, candles and doughnuts to raise money for the trip. The group piled into a 15-passenger van this morning for the trek north with Camden at the wheel.
"It's going to be really crowded," pupil Elisa Aucoin said.
Camden said the pupils have only one worry: "That the other kids will make fun of the way they talk."

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