Arrowhead Students Receive First and Second Places in Autism Essay Contest

Cece Phillips, Reporter

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Arrowhead students Caroline Schramka and Nicole Larson placed first and second in the Wisconsin Autism Society of Wisconsin’s annual essay contest, respectively. Their essays provide insight on what it’s like to live with Autism and how it feels to go through life with a diagnosis people sometimes don’t understand.

“We would like to congratulate Caroline Schramka for being selected as our first place winner of Division 4!  Nicole Larson was selected as our second place winner of Division 4,” said Amber Gollata, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Autism Society of Wisconsin, in an email on March 11, 2019.

Schramka initially couldn’t think of what to write for her essay. She knew she wanted it to be different and original. She wanted her essay to stand out, so she wrote about herself, and what it’s like living as a girl with Autism herself.

“While writing this piece, I got frustrated because I thought that I wouldn’t be able to portray my life events accurately as possible in my piece…Since I don’t talk about my Autism very much, I was afraid that it was going to change people’s perspective on me in a negative way. But as my essay was shared with my peers and members of the board meeting—I began to realize that it caused other people to gain a deeper perspective of my life. I also realized that people didn’t care about my Autism, but who I am as a person,” said Schramka.

Schramka said that the essay contest inspired her to be more open about her experiences with Autism, as well as take risks with her writing.

Schramka’s English teacher, Terri Carnell, urged her to enter the essay in the competition, even though its formatting was a bit unorthodox compared to her classmates’ essays.

“I didn’t expect to win. When I was told my essay won first place, I was surprised and shocked by the results…I was happy that one of my pieces got a lot of recognition from a lot of people,” Schramka said.

“My hope is that this essay will not only change your perspective of the life of people with Autism, but of other special needs kids as well. I hope that it makes others more accepting of those kids with special needs and will inspire them in the future,” says Schramka.

Larson’s essay told the story of an Arrowhead student who has Autism. Larson said the process of writing the essay was tough, because she wasn’t sure exactly how she wanted to write it at first, similar to Schramka.

“I knew I wanted to keep it authentic, but as someone who doesn’t know much about Autism, I wasn’t sure how to go about it,” said Larson.

Her questions regarding how to write the essay were soon answered in the form of a new friend, one she recently found out has Autism. So she went about the process of interviewing her, in order to tell her story.

“I just want others to know that you never know what others are dealing with. Molly was mostly a stranger until I interviewed her. But now, we are friends. So, truly, never judge a book by its cover,” Larson said.

Larson did not go unpraised by her English teacher at Arrowhead.

“I have Nicole in an independent study this semester. Throughout this course, she is working on writing for a variety of authentic purposes. The Autism Society essay competition is one I shared with her. Nicole had a creative vision for interviewing a classmate who has autism. I loved what Nicole did in her essay. It was informative, emotional, thoughtful and insightful…I am so proud of Nicole. She is so deserving of this award and honor,” English teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen says.

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