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American Girl Doll Writing Contest Winner



Published: Mon, March 30, 2009 @ 4:08 a.m.

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Gwendolyn Sieman, daughter of Rich and Rachel Sieman of Boardman. The winner of The Vindicator’s American Girl Doll Writing Contest

AND THE WINNER IS ...

The winner of The Vindicator’s American Girl Doll Writing Contest is:

Reporter: Gwendolyn Sieman, daughter of Rich and Rachel Sieman of Boardman.

Age: 10 years old.

School: She is a fourth-grader at Willow Creek Learning Center in Youngstown.

Teacher: Mrs. Beverly Walker, language and English class.

Here is Gwendolyn’s winning entry, exactly as it was submitted. She also included a clipping of The Vindicator’s coverage of the actual news event, which allowed the judges to see that she researched the event accurately.

A Stinging Adventure

Our buzzing student, John Umble, is stinging the nation. John Umble has gone to the Vindicator Spelling Bee four times and once he has gone to Washington D.C. John is an eighth grader who has sacrificed his opportunity to go to the state MATHCOUNTS so he is able to participate in the seventy-sixth annual Spelling Bee. John won his first school Spelling Bee when he was in third grade. Two years ago, John went to Washington after he spelled the winning word, Hippopotamus.

On March fourteenth, John stung the nation, he will go to Washington.

For her prize, Gwendolyn has received her very own Kit Kittredge doll, American Girl’s historical character, who was an aspiring journalist during the Great Depression. She will also receive Kit’s desk, chair and typewriter.

Our writing contest wasn’t exactly child’s play

Barb Shaffer, Society editor

Having preferred footballs to baby dolls when I was young, this former tomboy couldn’t help but grin when The Vindicator’s American Girl Doll Writing Contest was given to me to handle.

In my defense, the Barbie doll of my childhood was as cuddly as a football. Then, when my second chance at playing with dolls came — when my very “girly” daughter did play with them — it was at the time when the dolls du jour were those homely Cabbage Patch Kids. Enough said?

But, knowing that the Angels of Easter Seals is an organization that has a knack for sponsoring successful fundraisers, it didn’t take long for me to realize that their American Girl Doll Fashion Show was going to be no exception.

The research I did in preparation for The Vindicator’s March 8 publicity of the fashion show as well as the two contests we’d be conducting in conjunction with it quickly shed some light on this foreign subject. For starters, these dolls are unique, given the fact that each is designed as a historical character to not only entertain, but to also educate. Also, these dolls are quite popular. And, these dolls are ... valuable! Yikes!

The Vindicator had received two of the dolls to give away as the prizes for our contests. One was Kit Kittredge, whose story is about a 9-year-old aspiring journalist during the Great Depression. The writing contest to win her seemed like a no-brainer. Area 8- to 12-year-old girls were invited to submit brief news articles about events that took place at their schools. A drawing would be conducted for the other doll, Samantha, a kindhearted girl of privilege who lived with her grandmother in the early 1900s.

Upon learning all of this, I glanced at the dolls and quickly decided that the floor was not necessarily the best place for these two. I cleared a spot in a cabinet and tucked them away under lock and key for safekeeping.

Then the fun began.

First, it was the photo shoot, when I pulled the girls from “the vault,” as it was quickly dubbed, and stood over them like a mother hen as our chief photographer, Bob Yosay, took dozens of pictures for our contest publicity, under the watchful eye of our editorial art director, Robert McFerren.

Then, as the publicity for the contests gained momentum, whenever our promotions manager, Nena Perkins, needed to borrow “my girls” when their appearance on air necessitated a number of trips to the WFMJ TV studio, we joked each time about how she had to show a photo ID and leave a credit card as collateral before I’d release these celebrities into her custody.

But soon things got serious — the entries started to arrive. At first they trickled in, then the deadline neared and they jumped from 12 to 82 overnight, with the help of packets full of entries that arrived from several local schools. By the March 20 deadline, entries had topped out at 147.

Next, the judging commenced. Since we couldn’t hold 8-year-olds to the same level of writing skills as 12-year-olds, choosing the winning entry couldn’t be based on the accuracy in spelling, punctuation and grammar you’d expect in a writing contest. No, the judges’ assignment was to select the “reporter” who was simply clever enough to somehow set her entry apart from the others, which requires a natural skill rather than a learned one. It’s what competition brings out of a person; it’s what gave all of the contestants a fair shot at winning; it’s what wins contests.

It was 10-year-old Gwendolyn Sieman of Boardman who very cleverly — and likely unwittingly — used the newsworthiness of The Vindicator Regional Spelling Bee as her “news hook” to capture the attention of our judges, while at the same time meeting the assignment requirement of reporting on an event that took place at her school. You see, this year’s spelling bee champion, John Umble, is also a fellow student at Willow Creek Learning Center in Youngstown. Nice job.

Gwendolyn, congratulations! Although you're too young to recognize this old song title, I can't resist using it for this corny request — "Take good care of my baby!"

Barbara Shaffer is Society Editor for The Vindicator. To view some of the other entries the judges liked, visit www.vindy.com. Tomorrow is the drawing for the winner of Samantha.


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