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Harry Bloom, left, and Kendra Taylor smile after hearing their names announced Saturday as winners of the Ninth Annual Student Writing Contest at the Butler Officers Club on Okinawa.

Harry Bloom, left, and Kendra Taylor smile after hearing their names announced Saturday as winners of the Ninth Annual Student Writing Contest at the Butler Officers Club on Okinawa. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Kendra Taylor couldn’t claim her prize last year after a family member went into surgery. This year, Taylor and her family will have a second chance to visit Ishigaki Island.

For the second year in a row, the 11th grader at Kubasaki High School won an all-expenses-paid trip to the island with her parents for her winning essay in the Ninth Annual Student Writing Contest, sponsored by NTT Communications and “This Week on Okinawa,” a local publication.

With all names removed from the 530 total essays entered in the contest, Taylor’s essay on the Japanese Coming of Age Day holiday bested stiff competition in the high school division. The theme for high-school category essays was what it might be like to grow up on Okinawa as an Okinawan.

“I’m very happy and really surprised,” Taylor said. “The rumor going around school was that it was going to be someone from Kadena [High School]. It means a lot to me, because I want to be a writer when I grow up.”

Fifteen entrants each in the elementary (grades 4-6), middle (grades 7-9) and high-school (grades 10-12) divisions were treated to lunch and honored for their work Saturday afternoon at the Butler Officer Club near Camp Foster. All of the finalists received certificates on stage, while the winners of each division won the vacations.

“I was amazed at the quality of the work that was turned in,” said Lynn Lund, a judge and Kadena High School teacher. “Students in this contest really do exhibit some of the finest writing.”

Kelli Travenetti, a sixth-grader at Camp Foster’s E.C. Killin Elementary School, won her division for an essay fitting with the theme of most memorable moment on Okinawa.

Harry Bloom won the middle-school division with an essay on the Gyokusendo cave, home of around one million stalactites and stalagmites. Bloom, who has lived on the island for 10 years, won the prize in his first year of competition for writing on the category’s theme of favorite place on Okinawa.

“I was surprised I got this far, because there were a lot of kids,” said Bloom, a seventh-grader at Kadena Middle School.

There was plenty of debate among the judges over some of the top essays, said judge and Kubasaki writer’s club sponsor Gamelia Restum.

“In the end it really didn’t matter because they were all so good,” said Restum, in her third year of involvement with the contest. “The kids learn a lot from doing this.”

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