VAHS NYT Writing contest 2019

Verona Area High School students, from left, Jamie Hogan, Anna Knueve, Sydney Breitbach, Joseph Kleese and Keegan Lindell were recognized in a New York Times editorial contest.

Five Verona Area High School students wrote among the top 121 essays out of more than 10,500 submitted in a New York Times student editorial contest.

Students in the VAHS Advanced Placement Language and Composition classes take part in the contest through class. One of the teachers of that class, Kabby Hong, wrote in an email that the contest “changes the dynamic in the classroom.”

“We are always looking for opportunities for our students to connect with the real world and this contest achieves that goal,” Hong wrote. “Students like that they can write about anything that they want, and how the contest truly values their voice and interests.”

The students recognized in this year’s contest are Keegan Lindell as a runner-up, Jamie Hogan as an honorable mention and Sydney Breitbach, Joe Kleese and Anna Knueve all as round three finalists.

Lindell was one of 27 runners up, the second-best placement behind the 12 winners. He wrote about “Why I, a high school football player, want to see tackle football taken away from high schools.”

“Shoulder to shoulder, you are a shield for the returner; however, a man disguised as a bomb sails through a gap five yards away and strikes head first into the teammate next to you,” Lindell wrote in his essay. “With a loud disturbing crack: anger, hatred, fear and desperation fill your body.”

He wrote that he has “reluctantly come to the conclusion” that if he has sons, they will not play tackle football.

“At such a vital point in my developmental life, I am ripped apart between my love of the game and my growing realization that tackle football is not safe,” he wrote. “We need to make the wiser choice and lead ourselves into a safer future by removing one of my greatest passions. It’s sad, but it is time for tackle football to go.”

Excerpts of Lindell’s essay is expected to appear alongside other runners up in the Sunday, June 9, edition of The New York Times.

One of 32 honorable mentions, Hogan wrote an essay titled “Sex Education: Not as educational as we think.” The essay recognizes VAHS and the district have a “comprehensive” sex education program, but laments that many young people must rely on television, books or other sources to learn about sex.

“This method of learning about sex has become very normal in our culture, but it shouldn’t be that way,” she wrote. “Young people deserve a more reliable source of information about sex.”

Breitbach wrote about privilege, “Is my privilege part of the problem?” Kleese’s essay, “The mental illness we don’t know we have,” was about political tribalism, and Knueve wrote about “Becoming better global citizens.”

Contact Scott Girard at and follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.