Louisiana School Senior Riley Leger won third place for his essay submission for the 2021 Northwestern State University Louisiana High School Essay Contest. Winners will receive a $200 per semester NSU scholarship with a value up to $1,600 for 4 years.
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?” Riley’s essay was titled “Reflections on my Pawpaw, His Life, and Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus.”
Riley has distant childhood memories of his maternal grandfather, a kind and loving Pawpaw. Stories of his life and character were disconnected and crafted an incomplete picture.
“I had for a long time wanted a more complete and human picture of what he was like beyond my own memories, and when I saw the prompt for the Folklife Essay Competition the idea came to me to use the resources available to me to create that picture for myself,” Riley explained. “I talked to my mother, grandmother, granduncles, and used Pawpaw’s military documents to create a story, mostly focusing on his childhood and young adulthood, which I hope shows what kind of world he grew up in and what kind of person he was.”
Riley added some analysis using an old story from history and his own spin on its message for his paper, which he researched and wrote during the summer.
Riley credited his English and foreign language (German) classes at LSMSA toward his increased understanding of the structure and construction of literature and the English language respectively in a way that can’t be matched. His history classes inspired Riley to write this narrative about his Pawpaw’s life to preserve the information and its historical value.
“The atmosphere of LSMSA, the people there and their unmitigated strive to learn and succeed, has inspired me to always try and to push myself as far as I can go,” said Riley. I ended up writing nearly 4200 words in my paper, far longer than anything I had written before, and it would have been easy to give up halfway through or not even get started in the first place, and I think the people I have met at LSMSA, both in the faculty and student body, helped inspire me to not do so.”
Winning essays will be featured in the Louisiana Folklife Journal, a publication of the Louisiana Folklife Center. Contest winners will also share their essays with participants at the virtual 13th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference on Saturday, Sept. 25. The online conference is free and open to the public.