A local girl recently took top honors in a statewide essay competition.
Holley Murray, who at the time of her entry this past spring was a fifth-grader at Sawnee Elementary School, wrote the essay for the local essay contest organized by the Col. Hiram Parks Bell Chapter 2641 of United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Murray said the essay was assigned by her teacher at the time, Renee Chester.
“Everybody in our class had to write an essay and I had no idea that I would win anything for it,” said Murray, who’s now a sixth-grader at Liberty Middle School.
She chose to focus on the Battle of Chickamauga, a Civil War battle that occurred in 1863 in northwest Georgia.
“It was basically what happened and there was one big mistake made during that battle,” Murray said of her entry.
She said she wasn’t expecting to win anything for the class assignment.
“I really wasn’t because it wasn’t a topic that I was all that interested in because I’m more interested in writing narrative fiction, that type of thing,” she said. “So I wasn’t really expecting a lot out of it so [winning] came as a real surprise.”
She first received a letter noting that she had won the local competition, and later another letter arrived stating she had won the regional level. Finally, she learned she had placed first in the entire state for her grade level.
As a state winner, she got to attend the Georgia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s 118thannual convention earlier this fall.
During the convention’s Education Awards Luncheon, which was held at the Hilton Hotel and Convention Center in Marietta, Holley read her essay to the members of the organization.
She said the public reading was scary.
“It was pretty intimidating because there were a lot of people there,” she said. “Everyone was wearing really big hats and they all seemed very proper, but all were really nice.”
Holley received certificates and a monetary award at each level of competition: $20 at the local level, $25 at the regional and $50 for her state win.
“I have a savings account that I made a couple of years ago to save for college, so I put the money in there,” she said.
The annual essay contest is just one of many educational outreach programs offered through the Col. Hiram Parks Bell chapter.
Others include scholarship programs, donations of educational books and materials and promotion of historical research.