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The language of competition

Seneca Sophomore Hannah Apicelli, Seneca Junior Alexander Sztajerwald, and Seneca Junior Kyren Hartman

Three Seneca High students awarded in Russian essay contest

Hard work pays off. 

That’s how junior Alexander Sztajerwald put it upon becoming one of three Seneca High School students honored in the 2022 National Russian Essay Contest.

Sztajerwald, who competed in the intermediate level, and sophomore Hannah Apicelli, at the beginner level, received honorable mention awards. Junior Kyren Hartman competed at the intermediate level and earned a silver award.

All students in Russian 2 and higher can participate in the essay contest, sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian. This year, 738 students from more than 30 programs nationwide participated, and students learned of their awards earlier this month.

This year’s contest topic was “My Favorite Place.”

“I have to attribute my success on the exam to the hard work we do in class and the extensive effort we as Russian students put forth,” Sztajerwald said. “For the exam, I wrote about my favorite vacation place, Lake George, New York. 

“I was satisfied with my effort and hard work, and I felt content when I found out I had placed.” 

Marian Barnum – a Russian teacher and also advisor for the Russian Honor Society and the Russian clubs at Seneca – led the way for her students to succeed. She provided background on the competition and other insights on the language.

“Established 40 years ago, the National High School Russian Essay Contest gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their writing proficiency in Russian,” Barnum explained. “All students of Russian in the Russian 2 course and up are eligible to participate. By then, students are able to write in Russian cursive and they know the six cases, with their respective case endings.

“It is possible to memorize the 33-letter Cyrillic alphabet in two to three days,” she added. “Students learn to read print, but they only write in Russian cursive, as it is the mark of an educated person in Russia to be able to write in script.”

Barnum noted that the Russian language is not as hard as others to grasp.

“I think that the students would agree with me that the Russian language is not difficult to
learn, but that it just takes some time to memorize,” she said. “The grammar rules make a lot of sense, and for the most part, words are pronounced the way they are spelled.”

Learning another language can go a long way in determining where students will attend college, not to mention the benefit of winning the essay contest.

“Students are able to list these national awards on their applications to college,” Barnum pointed out. “I have had many seniors tell me that during their college interviews, they were asked about Russian. I know that the Seneca students were very pleased to learn of their awards.

“I am very proud of these students,” the teacher added, “and of all of the students who are studying Russian. It is my hope that someday these students will go on to careers in which they use the Russian language.”

Barnum also cited the benefit of winning the essay competition.

“Entering a contest like this could open doors for them that other students may not have access to,” she noted. “A good piece of advice would be for all students to do all they can, get involved and definitely learn another language if they can.”

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