Claire Michels

Oregon High School senior Claire Michels turned a German class assignment into a first-place award-winning essay that will net her a $200 Amazon gift card from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C.

High school seniors planning to attend college in fall are used to getting lots of messages and mail these days. But Oregon High School senior Claire Michels was surprised when she recently got an email from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. about claiming her prize and it wasn’t a scam.

Michels turned a German class assignment into a first-place award-winning essay that will net her a $200 Amazon gift card from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. For her assignment, she was asked to write an essay about a modern day Beethoven or a German inventor, so she compared rapper Lil Nas X and his song “Old Town Road” to “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

“It wasn’t that challenging because I have been writing a lot of essays for college scholarships,” Michels said. “The most challenging part was finding research to cite.”

Like Beethoven mixed genres of folk and classical music, Michels said Nas mixed rap and country into a popular song.

For Michels, the best surprise is that she didn’t even know her essay was submitted for the contest, as German teacher Jeffrey Dyer submitted it.

“I was really surprised because my teacher didn’t tell me he was going to submit my essay,” she said. “I really didn’t think it was that good.”

Michels said she plans to use the money for college, and plans to attend the University of Cincinnati in the fall, majoring in light design and technology at the conservatory of music, and minoring in German. She said she envisions a future in theater possibly overseas.