LSMSA, NCHS students among winners of 13th annual Louisiana High School Essay contest


NATCHITOCHES – Gabrielle Murison of Belle Chasse High School has been named the first-place winner of the 2021 Northwestern State University Louisiana High School Essay Contest.  Murison won the honor for the essay “From On-Screen Superhero to Real-Life Superhero.”  Apryl D. Gallo, also of Belle Chasse High School, won second place for her essay “Band Hero,” and Riley Leger of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts in Natchitoches won third place for the essay “Reflections on my Pawpaw, His Life, and Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus.”  Three students received Honorable Mention: Cameryn Broussard of Carencro High School for her essay “My Father,” Jeremiah Hopkins of Belle Chasse High School for his essay “Gumbo Queen,” and Keara Nelson of Natchitoches Central High School for her essay “Gumbo and Magnolias.”

Writing on the 2021 contest theme, “Louisiana Heroes,” entrants were invited to explore the following questions in their essays: “Who is a Louisianan you greatly admire?  How has this person’s example benefitted you?”

“This year’s theme for the essay contest, Louisiana Heroes, promised to deliver, and deliver it did,” said Sharon Wolff, Assistant Archivist at the Cammie G. Henry Research Center and co-chair of the Contest.  “I was delighted by essays that covered figures ranging from personal heroes to literal superheroes straight from the comics.  All touching to read, and all clearly written from the heart.  It was a joy to see what figures kids looked up to, and how they compared to the figures I looked up to when I was their age.  It turns out, not much has changed.”

“The essays we received this year were outstanding,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Louisiana Folklife Center at NSU and co-chair of the Contest.  “The essays were eloquent in their tributes to the Louisianans that have positively impacted the lives of these young writers.  Reading about the ways in which these role models, mentors, parents, coaches, and teachers exhibit both everyday and extraordinary heroism was inspiring!”

Winners will have their essays featured in the Louisiana Folklife Journal which is published by the Louisiana Folklife Center.  Contest winners have also been invited to share their essays with the participants of the 13th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference, which will take place virtually via Microsoft Teams on Saturday, September 25, 2021.  The online conference is free and open to the public.  A link for the conference will be placed on the Louisiana Folklife Center website in September.

The first, second, and third prize winners will each receive a $200 per semester NSU scholarship with a value up to $1,600 for 4 years.  All of the contest winners will receive a cash prize in honor of their accomplishment.  The essay contest is open to all Louisiana students in grades 9 – 12 regardless of type of school institution, including students in all types of private educational environments, as well as home schooled students.

This year’s essay contest judges were Dr. Lisa Abney, Faculty Facilitator for Academic Research and Community College Outreach and Professor of English at Northwestern State University; Jason Church, materials conservator with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training; Lisa Davis, director of the Writing Project at Northwestern State University and Wolff.

The contest was sponsored by the Louisiana Folklife Center, the NSU Office of Recruiting, and the College of Arts, Letters, Graduate Studies and Research.  The contest is annual, with a new theme to be announced in early Spring 2022.

For more information contact Dr. Shane Rasmussen, NSU Box 3663, Natchitoches, LA 71497,, or call the Louisiana Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.