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Release Date: 6/7/2018 Contact: Office of Communications, 443.809.5908

Catonsville High student wins first place in Maryland's Letters About Literature contest

Max McKenna
Towson, MD - When Catonsville High Grade 10 student Max McKenna finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me, he realized that he had been “shaken” from everything he believed and understood about race, racism, and equality.

The letter that McKenna wrote to Coates about the book earned him one of three first place awards in Maryland’s Letters About Literature contest sponsored by the Library of Congress and Maryland Humanities. McKenna won first place in Level 3 of the contest, for students from Grades 9 - 12.

As a state winner, McKenna advanced to the national Letters about Literature competition. Letters About Literature is a reading and writing contest sponsored by the Library of Congress for students in Grades 4-12. Students are asked to read a book, poem, or speech and write to the author (living or dead) about how the book affected them personally.

McKenna and the other winners were honored at a ceremony attended by Senator Paul Sarbanes and Congressman John Sarbanes.

The book McKenna wrote about, Between the World and Me, is a National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and a New York Times bestseller. The author, Coates, is a graduate of Woodlawn High School and the son of Catonsville High School’s IEP team chair, Cheryl Waters-Hassan.

McKenna is the third Catonsville High School student to win the statewide Letters About Literature contest in the past seven years: Lauralee An won in 2016, and Adam Antoszewski won in 2012.

In addition, McKenna’s English language arts teacher, Melanie Coates (no relation to Ta-Nehisi Coates), was the winner of last year’s Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award from Maryland Humanities. This award is presented to a teacher who participates in Letters About Literature and whose work to promote reading at his or her school is particularly noteworthy.

Other BCPS students who were finalists in the competition are listed below with the books they read/wrote about:

Catonsville High School
Daniel Charles - Big Nate: In a Class by Himself
Sylvia Johnson - All Creatures Great and Small
Amber McGuire - Walk Two Moons
Maddi McLean - Wonder
Rilee Phillips - Every Last Word
Charlotte Schaech - Wonder
Michael Wright - Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief
 
Dulaney High School
Alex Truong - No, David!
 
Parkville High School
Royal Antoine - Divergent
Francy Diaz - The Girl Death Left Behind
Mark Kardash - The Poseidon Adventure
Zowie A. Raider - Go Ask Alice
Taylor Simmons - The Joy Luck Club
Kaija Simms - Milk and Honey
Josh Surguy - A Bug’s Life series

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443-809-4554

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Verletta White
Interim Superintendent

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