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Hibernians sponsor Irish writing contest

Published: Sun, December 6, 2009 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Elise Mckeown Skolnick

The annual national writing contest is designed to promote Irish heritage.

HERMITAGE, Pa. — A local group is giving students a chance to learn about Irish history while honing their writing and research skills.

It’s done through a writing contest, sponsored by the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians of Mercer County. The contest is part of a larger state and national competition.

The goal is to promote Irish heritage, said Debbie Hiryak, coordinator of the Mercer County contest, but students don’t have to be Irish to participate.

Participants must be in grades 6 through 12 and live in Mercer County, she said. It’s open to public, private, parochial and homeschooled students.

The Mercer County chapter of LAOH is part of a national organization that sponsors the Irish writing contest. The chapter got its start about five years ago and began offering the contest to local students.

The first and second years, Hiryak said, the group had 11 and 13 entries, respectively. But by last year, the third year, teachers at a local high school offered extra credit to students in advanced-placement English classes. The LAOH had 67 entries.

A local committee chooses five winners in two age categories to send on to the state-level competition. Winners at that level move on to the national contest.

For the last two years, three of the five Mercer County winners have won a prize at the state level, Hiryak said, including one last year who took first place.

“We were real happy,” Hiryak said.

There is a different topic for each level of the contest. Level I is for those in grades 6 through 8. Level II is for those in grades 9 through 12. The topics are chosen by the national organization and change every year.

“Sometimes, we’re not crazy about the topic,” noted Hiryak, “but it does get [the students] to research. I’m really impressed with some of the writings; quite impressed.”

This year, the topic for Level I is “Role of Women in 1916 Rebellion.” Essays should be 500 to 1,000 words. The topic for Level II is “The Irish Playing the Games: The Sports of the World.” Essays should be 750 to 1,500 words.

The first-place local winner in each level will receive $100. The top five winners will be sent to the state competition. There are other monetary prizes at the state and national levels.


The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians of Mercer County is seeking entries for a national writing contest to help promote Irish heritage.

This year, the topic for grades 6 through 8 is “Role of Women in 1916 Rebellion.” Essays should be 500 to 1,000 words.

The topic for 9 through 12 is “The Irish Playing the Games: The Sports of the World.” Essays should be 750 to 1,500 words.

All entries must follow these rules:

They must be legibly hand-written or typed on one side of the paper only. Type face must not exceed 12 point.

Each must have a separate cover sheet with the student’s name, home address, age, school name, school address and grade level. Also include the number of words in the essay, exclusive of cover page, introduction and bibliography.

They must be received by Jan. 5. Send to Debbie Hiryak, 3425 Shadow Drive, Sharpsville, Pa. 16150. Call (724) 962-3234 for more information.

Source: LAOHMC

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