Writing, honored: Nevada County honors finalists for the Nevada County Writes competition | TheUnion.com

Writing, honored: Nevada County honors finalists for the Nevada County Writes competition

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

An active, educated community.

That’s what Nevada County Reads & Writes has been advocating. The program, sponsored by Nevada County Libraries and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, encourages community members to read the same book every February and participate in community-related events tied to the themes of the literature.

About eight years ago, former Nevada County Reads & Writes member JoAnn Marie said she wanted to get students more involved in writing, so she created a community-wide student competition.

“We have a lot of talented youngsters and they need an avenue of expression and I think writing is one of the ways to do that,” said Marie.

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Last week, a ceremony was held at the Madelyn Helling Library to honor the finalists and honorable mentions of the writing competition. Aneka Torgrimson (Nevada Union) took first place, with Briar Bilderback (Silver Springs) and Alma Ramirez (Nevada Union) coming in second and third, respectively. Each finalists won a small sum of cash, and most publicly read their nonfiction stories at the ceremony.

This year’s theme was asking students to reflect, which was related to this year’s book, “Ties That Bind” by David Isay.

“I think increasing student voices is always the right thing to do,” said Jill Sonnenberg, Nevada Union’s teacher librarian. “Developmentally they are at the age where they need to be asking themselves lots of questions.”

There were over 20 contestants in the competition, said Sonnenberg. She helped with the preliminary eliminations of the contestants along with three other judges.

“The judging was a very exhaustive process,” said Sonnenberg.


Ramirez, an 11th grader at Nevada Union, wanted to leverage her writing to motivate others in the Latino and Latina community. The student hopes to make people unafraid to do whatever it is that inspires them.

“I just want other kids who are going through the same thing that I am, that it’s always possible to follow your dreams no matter the roadblocks you face,” she said.

Ramirez wrote about being the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the struggles her parents endured, and some of the same hardships she’s faced.

“We left all our hopes and dreams in Mexico in order for you to complete yours,” her parents often tell her.

Despite the adversity, Ramirez is active in the community — a participant in her school’s Spanish club and peer advocate group. Her club spends time in Yuba City, donating food and school supplies to individuals in the Spanish-speaking community. Ramirez hopes others don’t shy away from their passions simply because of their ethnic, racial or religious background.

“I just want to motivate people so they can do better in life,” she said.

Torgrimson, a freshman at Nevada Union, enjoyed the process of written reflection. She said it was an empowering exercise for herself and the other contestants.

“I felt like a lot of the girls felt this was a way of opening up to people,” she said. “And it made me feel good to share my story.”

Torgrimson wrote about being delivered to an orphanage in Hunan Province, China, during her infancy.

“When I was younger, I felt a lot of pain from being abandoned,” she said.

The high school student said the process of writing helped her understand where she belonged. Her parents openness and pride in Torgrimson’s background has made her life more enjoyable.

“I love them for (being open),” she said. “They believe it’s important to know your roots because it makes you more grateful for who you are today.”

A number of active community residents, like JoAnn Marie, hope middle and high school students continue to express themselves through their writing. As that happens, she believes the yearly writing competition will continue to expand.

“I think, like most things, it grows with peoples’ interest,” she said.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

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