CMMS Students Won Washington Teen Outreach’s 2023 Black History Month Essay Contest

(Pictured: Winners of the Black History Month Essay Contest)
Posted On: Monday, March 6, 2023

The Washington Teen Outreach Center held a Black History Month Essay Context in February. A team of judges reads and judges the essays anonymously, and Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski, a published author, educator, and former nurses who oversees the Teen Outreach and runs many programs, financed and issued the awards and checks.

The contest was open to all Washington County 7-12th grade students were 41 entries this year with 5 winners at the high school level and 4 winners, all from Canon-McMillan Middle School, at the middle school level. 

CMMS winners:

  • 1st place ($100; 1st place high school and middle school essays will be published in the Observer-Reporter):
    • Mya McCelleis, 7th grade (Knights team)
  • 2nd place ($75):
    • Dara Akinkugbe, 7th grade (Knights team)


  • 3rd place ($50)
    • Caitlyn Riley, 7th grade (Knights team)


  • Honorable Mention:
    • Elizabeth Friday. 7th grade (Titans team)


Essayists and their families attended a ceremony at the Common Ground Center (at 92 North Main Street in Washington), some via Zoom, from 6:30-7:30 on Thursday, Feb. 23, where several winners read aloud their essays and Dr. Podgurski congratulated and issuers a certificate and check to the winners.

After the high school winners did so, Dara Akinkugbe and Caitlyn Riley also read aloud their essays to the group while Mya McCelleis, who attended via Zoom, had her teacher, Mrs. Kelly Berg, read hers to the attendees.

Everyone enjoyed pizza, fried bread, and other refreshments and Dr. Podgurski spoke with the essayists and their families, even posing for a photo shoot with the CMMS middle school winners who were present!

Students look forward to future essay and writing opportunities, such as an art contest in March with the theme of De-Stigmatizing Mental Health Issues.

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