Valley students to mull value system in | AspenTimes.com

Valley students to mull value system in

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A child’s education should be about more than the three R’s, valley librarians agree.

The Pitkin County Library’s annual essay contest usually emphasizes in-depth research, just one way the library draws students to its stacks for afternoons of study. But contest organizers say that, this year, they wanted to do more than encourage a study group ? they wanted to make a difference in student relations.

Posters and other promotional materials proclaim that the Pitkin County Library’s “Life’s Values” contest was put together “to help young people reflect on values important in today’s world while emphasizing excellence in research.” The contest, conducted in conjunction with libraries from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, will help area schools promote a little-recognized resource, organizers say.

“We decided to do an essay contest that would help the schools emphasize their character-building programs,” assistant librarian Debra Muzikar said. “We’re trying to give them resources they can use to support these programs.”

The contest is geared toward Roaring Fork Valley seventh-graders and high school sophomores. Both grade levels were provided with similar questions, but each will face a unique twist. Seventh-graders will wrestle with the subject: “Based on the values you find important in life, describe a famous person in American history who portrayed these qualities.” High school sophomores have been asked: “Based on the values you find important in life, which individual would you select as person of the year?”

“One of the big character education guidelines is student reflection, and that’s what this essay is,” Muzikar said.

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Essays will be judged on content, or quality of research; analysis, or presentation of the student’s perspective; and grammar, word usage and other language elements.

Seventh-graders will compete for Grammy Awards, a gift made possible by Aspen residents Marty and Deborah Flug. Prizes include $300 for first-place essay entries, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

Sophomores will vie for the Susan Keenan Award, a prize named for the Pitkin County children’s librarian and supplied by an anonymous donor. The top essayist will receive $500, with $250 for second place and $100 for third place.

All entries, which should be turned in at the Pitkin County Library, are due no later than Nov. 8. Entries can also be mailed to the Pitco library, with a postmark of no later than the same date.

Students are working on their essays as part of a school project, but local schools aren’t the only organizations getting involved. A number of local radio stations have volunteered their time to promote the contest, Muzikar said.

Debbie Brainard, a representative of KGLN-AM in Glenwood Springs, has visited a few valley schools to help students develop their essays. A youth radio show on KDNK Public Radio, which runs from 2:30 to 5 p.m. each Monday, will also allow its student hosts to address the contest and its subject.

The contest has turned into a community event, Muzikar said. A local troop of Girl Scouts are now working on merit badges related to human values, and a few area churches are hoping to address the issue over the next few weeks as the contest deadline approaches.

This involvement has organizers hoping that the contest will have more than a few seventh- and 10th-graders thinking about the content of their character.

“It’s not just the kids who need to think about human values anymore,” Muzikar said.

A panel of librarians, teachers and public officials will serve as contest judges, picking through the pile of entries in mid-November.

Contest winners will be notified by the end of the year.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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